The question for England supporters is whether Ian Bell’s loss of form is temporary or if we’re now staring disconsolately into the dregs of his career.
For a man described by David English this week as the most technically-gifted batsman in the 29 years of the Bunbury Festival, it is one that’s been posed far too many times before.
The bare facts do not make happy reading this time: he has just 117 runs in his last six Tests at an average of 10.63.
In 2011 he posted five centuries; in the three and a half years since he has added only six more. And under Alastair Cook’s captaincy he averages 28.58, compared to 56.75 under Andrew Strauss.
Despite his woes, Bell has been promoted to number three in a move best-described as kill or cure.
The problem is not just Bell’s fragile confidence but the likelihood that he may face the new ball sooner than he’d like.
Adam Lyth has had an equally torrid time of late, with scores of 0, 7, 6, 37, 0, 9, 0, and 17 in his last eight innings in all competitions.
But Bell has his own tankard in the last chance saloon and may still have a performance or two left in him before the towels are placed on the pumps.
His England record at Edgbaston is solid without being spectacular. In five Tests he has three fifties and has been on the losing side only once.
I’d tentatively suggest his match runs are worth a buy at 78, on the assumption that he’ll bat twice and is too good to keep failing.
If a bet on Bell is not for the faint-hearted, any wager on Steve Smith looks like a sure thing.
The 26-year-old posted 33 twice in Cardiff and was briefly usurped as the world’s number one-ranked Test batsman by South Africa’s AB de Villiers.
But a near faultless 215 at Lord’s saw him regain the crown. After hitting a second innings 58 he became the first Australian to score a double hundred and a fifty in the same Ashes Test since Don Bradman.
He is 5/4 to score a fifty and 11/4 to score a century in the first innings, with my preference for the former.
Buy Ian Bell runs at 78 with Sporting Index
Steve Smith to score a 50 at 5/4 with Betway