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England's Ian Bell looks to some home comforts for runs

By David Clough

Published 28/07/2015

Ian Bell
Ian Bell

Ian Bell is hoping his move up to three in the England batting order will give him the opportunity to score "big runs" against Australia on his home ground at Edgbaston.

Bell has had a disappointing Ashes series to date, contributing scores of one, 60, one and 11 in the first two matches coming in at four, while he has scored only one Test century in the last year.

That had led to speculation about Bell's future but England have opted to stick with the 33-year-old Warwickshire batsman for tomorrow's third Test and have promoted him up a place as Gary Ballance makes way.

Bell is well aware he needs to improve and how important this week's Test is for him, but he is hopeful he can rediscover his best form in Birmingham.

"It's an opportunity to go out there and do something a little bit different. We've obviously changed a little bit there, and hopefully it's an opportunity to go and score some big runs."

England have had plenty of problems at the top of the order against Australia, with opener Adam Lyth averaging less than 13 and Ballance under 25.

Bell's own average in the series is 18 but England decided to drop Ballance for his in-form Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow and move the Warwickshire man up a spot.

Bell, who was the leading scorer on either side in the 2013 Ashes in England with 562 runs at 62, knows he can ill afford another failure as question marks about his place in the England team hang over him.

He added: "I'm realistic. I also know that I haven't performed how I'd expect an England player to perform, certainly over the last six weeks, so it's an important Test match there's no doubt.

"I still believe that when I'm playing at my best I'm a world-class player and I'm desperate for the kind of runs that come with being a top-order player for England, but I've known over a long time with England that your job is to score runs.

"I know that I haven't done that to my capability over the last six or seven Test matches, and hopefully this is the start of me kicking on and going forward again."

Australia paceman Mitchell Starc was the first man to claim Bell's wicket this series with an lbw decision at Cardiff and he says the tourists will be "going hard" at the experienced right-hander once again.

However, Starc also knows what Bell is capable of, having been on the 2013 tour, and the 25-year-old says Australia will not be lulled into a false sense of security against a player who has 22 Test centuries to his name.

Starc told a press conference: "He's struggling a little bit, but he's got a great record on his side and he had a great series against us last time we came over here, so we're not taking him for granted.

"He may have been lacking a bit of form but it only takes one good knock. So we'll still be going hard at him, sticking to our plans."

Starc also warned the rest of the England batting line-up to expect more of same from the Australia pace attack which, led by Mitchell Johnson, caused all sorts of problems for the hosts last time out at Lord's.

He added: "I'm sure we'll be following suit from what Mitch (Johnson) dished up at the end of Lord's. It's great to see a few of the guys jumping about and we got a few wickets that way. We've got a bit of extra pace on our side and hopefully there's a bit of pace in this wicket.

"Short stuff is definitely on the menu."

Joe Root, who tops England's run charts in the series after scoring 134 and 60 in the first Test, acknowledges Bell's place is under threat just like anybody else.

The Yorkshire batsman said: "I think every international player is playing for his place at all times.

"Obviously some guys are scoring more consistently than others, but Ian's record is fantastic. He's playing at his home ground and it's obviously an Ashes series, which last time it was in England he was outstanding, so I'm sure he will be dying to get back out there and lay a big marker down."

Root also hopes to see county colleague Bairstow continue his stunning domestic form.

He added: "It's never easy to come into such a big series but he's also averaging over 100 and playing exceptionally well. So he'll be desperate to get out here and get some more runs and carry on the great form he's been in throughout this summer so far."

Belfast Telegraph

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