Under-pressure England batsman Ian Bell accepts that big runs are the only commodity that will end speculation over his international future as his side prepare for the third Investec Ashes Test against Australia at Edgbaston, which starts tomorrow.
Bell’s place in the side has come under increasing scrutiny after notching just 128 runs in 12 Test innings – an average of 10.66 – since scoring a century against the West Indies during the first Test of England’s Caribbean tour in April.
The 33-year-old is set to replace the axed Gary Ballance at No3 in England’s batting line-up, a move which will see vice-captain Joe Root promoted to No4, followed by the recalled Jonny Bairstow at five.
Despite his current tribulations, the experienced Bell holds an enviable Test record. He has scored 22 hundreds and averages 43.18 from his 112 matches, and insists he is determined to re-discover his match-winning credentials.
“’I’m realistic. I know that I haven’t performed how I’d expect an England player to perform, certainly over the last six weeks, so it’s an important Test match there’s no doubt,” said Warwickshire’s Bell.
“I still believe that when I’m playing at my best I’m a world-class player and I’m desperate for the kind of runs that come with being a top-order player for England. I’ve known over a long time with England that your job is to score runs.
“I know that I haven’t done that to my capability over the last six or seven Test matches. But who’s to say that there’s not a hundred round the corner and I go off on a good run?”
Read more: Bairstow into firing line as Ballance axed
Australia seamer Mitchell Starc, meanwhile, has promised England’s batsmen that there will be no relaxation in the pace assault that wreaked havoc during the second Test at Lord’s.
England had little answer to Australia’s battery of fast bowlers, led by the fiery Mitchell Johnson, as they were routed for just 103 in their second innings. The tourists recorded a dominant 405-run victory inside four days to level the series at 1-1.
“I’m sure we’ll be following suit from what Mitch [Johnson] dished up at the end of Lord’s,” said Starc, who has claimed nine wickets in the series.
“It’s great to see a few of the guys jumping about and we got a few wickets that way. We’ve got a bit of extra pace on our side and hopefully there’s a bit of pace in this wicket. Short stuff is definitely on the menu.”
Starc also believes that veteran opener Chris Rogers is winning his battle to be fit for the third Test after being forced to retire hurt from Australia’s second innings at Lord’s due to dizziness, having been hit on the head by a James Anderson bouncer two days earlier.
The 37-year-old former Middlesex captain underwent a net session yesterday with Australian pace trio Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
“He seems to have come through pretty well,” added Starc. “All reports are he is good to go.”