Do Bell and Root promotions mean future KP return is possible?
There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for Kevin Pietersen in his ongoing attempt to be allowed to return to the England (7/2 Ashes series shouts) set-up (again), and here is Coral’s reason why…
After a woeful showing at the home of cricket, Lord’s, in the second Test that saw Australia bring the score to 1-1, Gary Ballance was the man sacrificed to allow Yorkshire teammate Jonny Bairstow to come into the starting XI following his incredible form.
In doing so, the wicketkeeper is set to be placed at number five as a batsman, the position in which he just hit 139 and an unbeaten 74 against Worcestershire in a County Championship win. Ian Bell and Joe Root, meanwhile, have been moved up to three and four respectively.
So, in theory, Bell has been promoted, despite managing just 73 runs (25 fewer than Ballance) in his first four innings against Australia this summer and the fact that England’s top order in the last two years has been very poor.
There is no doubting Bell’s Test career, with 22 hundreds to his name in 112 matches at an average of 43.18, but why be moved up to number three, a position that he has usually struggled in so far in?
The Warwickshire veteran, 33, has had two great knocks of 159 and 235 (both in the same series against India) at number three, but they were back in 2011 and his 20 other centuries were in other positions.
Many had called for Bell to get the chop after Lord’s, which the hosts lost by 405 runs, and it seems that coach Trevor Bayliss is giving the technically-gifted batter one last chance to prove he can hack it on the big stage.
If he does fail once again – he has just one 50 in his last 12 innings and his two scores at number three since that series against India he was out for 3 and 16 (the latter in the last Ashes) – it might suggest Pietersen could return.
It seems that England are trying to ease Root into the number three position, after their attempt to suddenly drop him in as an opener earlier in his career didn’t quite go to plan, meaning the number four spot would be open soon enough.
Could that happen as soon as this series? And could new England director of cricket Andrew Strauss overcome personal issues with KP and go back on his word, to bring him back?
Pietersen is the only one with enough quality, experience and match-winning ability waiting in the wings for his favoured number four spot, where he played for much of his successful Test career.
Strauss did say this summer that the door isn’t closed on the South African-born star, but he all-but confirmed he won’t be back this summer.
“While there is no trust between Kevin and the ECB, it is our opinion he cannot feature in our short-term plans. Long-term, who knows?” Strauss said after Pietersen hit a triple ton for county club Surrey the day before.
Former England skipper Strauss, like most international captains are and almost have to be, is clearly a very stubborn man and will not like to go back on his word. However, fans and even results are clearly calling for Pietersen’s premature return.
Aged 35, Pietersen may be entering the latter stage of his career, but he is two years younger than current Aussie opener Chris Rogers, who recently hit 95, 173 and 49 (retired hurt) against England in his last four innings.
Pietersen is not getting any younger, but England should surely make the most of what little time left they could use of him, despite his controversial past, and he has openly said on numerous occasions he wants to return.
For now, though, England and Strauss’ Plan A is to give Bell one last chance, but they may reluctantly be forced into a Plan B if things don’t go their way at Edgbaston in the third Test, which they are 3/1 with Coral to win.