In-form Bell eyes Twenty20 spot
Ian Bell believes he has made a strong case to be included in England's Twenty20 side after a match-winning 124 against the Prime Minister's XI which continued his outstanding form on the tour of Australia. Bell hasn't been part of the Twenty20 side since 2008, but with Craig Kieswetter out injured there is a vacancy at the top of the order.
Michael Lumb, the Hampshire opener, has been drafted into the squad although his form is nowhere near that of Bell's after making just 2 in his first Big Bash appearance for Queensland. Lumb opened throughout the World Twenty20 in West Indies, but hasn't appeared for England since, due to a combination of a form slump and injury.
Bell's run-scoring spree could mean Lumb misses out again against Australia, in Adelaide, on Wednesday. "I'll have to wait and see," Bell said. "I obviously haven't done myself any harm today. I'll do anything that is asked of me and hopefully there'll be an opportunity around the corner."
Paul Collingwood, the England Twenty20 captain, admitted Bell's form had made life tougher for the selectors. "He's in fantastic form and has been since he arrived in Australia. That was a very clinical innings," he said. "He's staked a claim for the Twenty20 side so we'll have to gauge things and take it from there."
And the selection dilemmas will stretch beyond the two Twenty20s when the one-day series begins next week. Kevin Pietersen was dropped for England's last ODI contest against Pakistan but it would seem inconceivable that he won't return after a solid Ashes campaign which leaves Bell and Jonathan Trott fighting for one spot.
"In all forms of our game we have good competition," Bell said. "That's what we need. This one-day series will be exactly like the Ashes, we aren't going to win it with 11 players. We've got some guys who've had a good run out today so that's even better for us."
Bell's innings meant a tough start to his captaincy career for Tim Paine who earlier scored a neat half-century to set up the PM XI's innings. He could do little to stem the flow of runs as England batted, but that was largely down to poor bowling rather than any particular decisions he made. As Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke have found out in recent weeks, leadership is tough without control in the field.
"It was just one of those games, an opportunity for me to practice being in charge of a team," he said. "It's something I haven't done before and I'll sit down and have a think about it, have a chat to some people after this is to come up with a few things that I can improve on and some things that I did well."
Paine is vice-captain of Australia's Twenty20 team and is confident that the bowlers in that unit will be able to stop the England juggernaut. "Wednesday's a completely different game, a completely different set of bowlers," he said. "We'll probably go in with more plans on how we want to bowl to the opposition."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo