In looking to the future yesterday, England's selectors turned to the past. They resurrected Ian Bell's one-day career for the third time by asking him to fill the role of opening batsman vacated by Kevin Pietersen. It is a risky business, not quite supported by Bell's previous record over 108 matches, but it is based on the sound reasoning that it may be as well to pick the most gifted batsman in the country.
Bell's last incarnation as a limited-overs batsman turned out to be a disaster when he was expected to play the part of finisher and pinch-hitter at No 6. That bizarre idea foundered on his inability to slog, much like the concert pianist trying to bash out a medley on the old joanna down at the old Bull and Bush. It was embarrassing to watch at times. Maybe he would have been better advised to invest the occasion with his more dignified style, but it seems that he will now have the chance up the order again.
Bell has been there before but in 27 ODI innings as opener he flattered to deceive, making only five fifties with a pedestrian run rate of 4.40 an over. Were it not for Pietersen's retirement, this gap would probably not have opened up and Bell's career as a limited-overs batsman would have remained unfulfilled. But watching him at work in the third Test match, which was finally abandoned yesterday without a ball being bowled on the fifth day, was to appreciate a sublime talent.
"We don't want him to do a similar job to Pietersen, we want him to be Ian Bell and play great one-day international cricket," said the England coach Andy Flower. "With the two new white balls in one-day internationals we want great quality batsmen up front for us. He is one of those."
The plan, which is only partly formed as yet because of the time gap, is for Bell to open the batting in the World Cup in Australia in 2015. If he can stay in the team that long, playing perhaps another 60 or 70 matches, he will indeed have made the place his own.