ENGLAND selector Geoff Miller has backed batsman Ian Bell to seize his Ashes chance after confirming he will start the third Test against Australia.
Bell is set to replace the injured Kevin Pietersen in the batting line-up at Edgbaston on Thursday after being included in the 13-man squad yesterday.
The absence of Pietersen, who will miss the rest of the series with an Achilles problem, is the only change to the squad picked for last week’s victory at Lord’s. And having forgone the chance to call up a replacement, Miller has told Bell to make the most of his first England Test start since February.
“Kevin’s injury has presented an opportunity for Ian Bell, who we know is a top-class batsman with an excellent international record for England,” said Miller. “Ian will be looking to make the most of his return to the side during an Ashes series – and while we have a strong idea of where he will bat, we won’t be disclosing the final line-up of the side until the toss on Thursday.”
Bell, who is set to make his international return on his home ground, has been in good form for Warwickshire of late, scoring 640 in seven matches before last week’s clash against Hampshire. However, he then went for a duck at the Rose Bowl on Friday, having made just seven in the first innings, and has a poor record against Australia.
Durham paceman Steve Harmison is again included as cover for Andrew Flintoff, whose recurring knee problems will be closely monitored in the lead-up to the match.
All-rounder Flintoff inspired the 115-run second Test win that put England 1-0 up in the series and Miller added: “Andrew Flintoff’s performance at Lord’s was truly memorable and we are hopeful he can take his place in the side for the third Test as he continues to manage his knee injury.
“Andrew and the medical staff are quite bullish about his prospects of playing but we’ll continue to monitor his progress in the days leading up to Thursday. Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar both provide us with cover and exciting options within the bowling attack.”