Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Ian Bell - a natural number 6

It is to be hoped that any debate about where Ian Bell should bat for England has been put to bed by his continued run of amazing form at number 6. In a career lasting just 26 Tests Bell has played matches as opener and numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6. This kind of unsettling madness is the ideal recipe to destroy a player's confidence. Fortunately, Bell has come through it intact and appears to be thriving now he has established himself as a regular in the team.

The statistics are clear - Bell averages 73.87 in seven Tests at 6, over double his 35.22 in 9 Tests at 3. At 4 and 5 he averages in the mid forties, matching his overall average. Those who call for him to bat at 3 if Strauss is dropped and Vaughan opens should reconsider quickly, not just for the sake of England but out of respect for a batsman who has found his position and is playing exceptionally well in it.

The reasons why Bell is so good at 6 lie in his wonderful ability to play equally well with top, middle and lower order batsmen. He has already shown himself to be a master at milking the tail, as well as featuring in some of England's biggest and most valuable partnerships in recent series.

One must also acknowledge that Bell's weakness outside off stump is most likely to be exposed by quality bowlers using the new ball. Too often in his time at three he was in early, practically playing as an opener. It is worrying to note then, for those who advocate moving Bell back to three, that he averaged just 13.00 in his one Test as an opener.

With England regaining their best form under the masterful captaincy of Vaughan, surely it is madness to move Bell from the number six slot, which he has made his own and which has been so important to the team's success.


The Atheist said...

No really sure what a "natural" number six is. Someone who is good at batting with the rubbish players? Or just someone who is good, but not good enough to face the new ball?

Bello prides himself of being a classical openning English batsman. It's just that we have a few of those already. He has shown that he is a quality player batting in all positions - one of our best in Australia. It is not suprising that he is scoring more against weaker sides, when he happened to bat at six.

His apparently freakish good form is more of a statistical blip, than anything. He is just a very good batsman, who can adapt to any position in the order.

Richard Lake said...

To be honest, giving him a proper run in the team is far more important than where he bats. He can bat anywhere from 3-6, and it just so happens that his run of form has come while he is at 6.

I'd certainly have him at 5 above Collingwood, and if Strauss is to be rested, with Vaughan opening, I'd be much happier having Bell in at 3 rather than Shah, Joyce or Bopara.

Tim said...

He offers England a lot more stability there than Flintoff did but he has played mediocre attacks there - Pakistan (minus Akhtar, Rana and, until the last Test, Asif) and a pretty toothless West Indies attack. I like him there but I think that, as he matures, three will eventually be his rightful place.