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After seemingly being moved aside from the one-day side earlier this year, Ian Bell now has another chance to cement a role as opener following Kevin Pietersen's retirement
George Dobell at Edgbaston
June 11, 2012
Bell will open the batting in the series against West Indies that starts at West End on Saturday, with Flower admitting the selection has been made with more than an eye to the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
As recently as February, it seemed Bell's limited-overs international career might be over when he was dropped from the squad to play Pakistan in the UAE and England won the four-match series 4-0. Now, however, with Kevin Pietersen having retired from limited-overs internationals and a recent adaptation to ODI playing regulations meaning that a new ball is used from each end at the start of games, England have decided that Bell has the best all-round game to cope with the demands of the position.
"Ian Bell is a very experienced cricketer, even though he's only 30," Flower said. "He's got a lot of international experience and he's in great form. He is very confident at the moment.
"With the two new white balls we want great quality batsmen up front and he is one of those. We believe the man who has got the best chance of making it a success against two new white balls is Ian Bell. He's really good quality. We believe he can form a successful partnership with Alastair Cook. Of course there are alternatives and we've considered them very carefully but I'm really excited to see him take up that challenge."
Bell's recall will not be universally welcomed. He has enjoyed copious previous opportunities - he has played 108 ODIs; 28 of them as opener - without ever absolutely replicating the confidence and dominance he has shown in domestic limited-overs cricket. Overall he has averaged 34.04 with a strike-rate of 73.31 in ODIs, with one century and 19 half-centuries, while as opener he has averaged 33 at a strike-rate of 70.69 with five half-centuries.
Whichever way you look at it, there is room for improvement and it is asking a great deal of him to step into the considerable shoes vacated by the retirement of Pietersen, who has an ODI average of 41.84 and a strike-rate of 86.76.
England are not looking for Bell to try to emulate Pietersen's methods, though. Instead they hope that by giving him time to settle in the opening position, he will prosper with his own style. Bell has rarely enjoyed a settled position in the side. He has batted at every position except No. 8 and No. 10 - though he has batted at No. 3 47 times - and has often hinted at his class without producing many match-defining performances. His ability to open, and the fact that the England squad already contains several relatively inexperienced players, saw him preferred to the likes of Ben Stokes and James Taylor.
Flower admitted that, had England been facing more ODI games in Asian conditions, they might have opted for a more explosive option at the top of the order and conceded that the selectors had considered opting for a young man.
"On the sub-continent we would obviously consider whether we go with the same personnel up front," Flower said. "But there's a lot of time between now and the next sub continental one-day cricket.
"The World Cup in Australia was definitely on our mind. We had to weigh up whether to get someone younger than him in. But we think he's the best option for us and he's only 30 years old. It is safe to assume he will open. We don't want him to do a similar job to Pietersen we want him to be Ian Bell and play great international cricket."
Andrew Strauss also welcomed Bell's recall. While admitting that he no longer had any input into the selection of the ODI side, Strauss referred to Bell as "one of the best players in the world" who can "adapt to any form of the game".
"This might just be the opportunity he needs to cement his place in the one-day side," Strauss said. "I think we all know his quality and it's great for him to be back in that one-day set-up.
"He has shown plenty of times that he is capable of doing a very good job in one-day cricket, maybe he just hasn't had that one breakthrough innings that really grabs the game by the scruff of the neck and wins it for England. I think once he does that the world is his oyster. He's such a fine player that he can be up there with the very best."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
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