Ian Bell stands to be the biggest benefactor of Kevin Pietersen’s omission from the England squad as he seems the most likely contender to fill his boots in the batting order.
England are 5/2 to beat South Africa – an imperative if they are to retain the coveted number one spot at the summit of the Test rankings – and Bell’s performance with the bat could go a long way to determining the outcome of the contest.
His series to date has been poor – a 55 in the second innings at the Oval being his only knock of note – but his track record suggests a promotion to number four could induce an upturn in his performance.
The Warwickshire batsman averages a healthy 42.00 from 11 matches at four and, although that is a few runs shy of his career record, Bell tends to deliver both at Lord’s and when the third game of a series rolls around.
Bell averages an exceptional 66.00 at the MCC where he’s played 11 matches, owing a large portion of this to the 199 he smashed against the Proteas the last time he squared off with their attack here.
His average increases to 48.31 whereas his strike-rate improves to 51.96 in comparison to his career statistics in games at this stage of the series. The latter could be key to England’s chances should they require someone to attack the South African bowlers in Pietersen’s absence.
Although Bell himself would prefer to bat lower in the middle-order, his seniority should see him be given the responsibility ahead of Pietersen’s replacement Jonny Bairstow and fellow youngster James Taylor.
Both of these will have their work cut out against Dale Steyn and co without having to contend with the added pressure of coming in and putting a score on the board early in the innings.
The third Test, then, could prove to be the platform for Bell to stake his claim as England’s number one middle-order batsman with the long-term future of Pietersen very much in doubt.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.