Ashes 2013-14: Ian Bell puts his hand up, but No 3 role is made for Joe Root

The Ashes may depend on a reshuffle that fills Trott’s place while leaving the heart of England’s middle order intact

Adelaide

Joe Root is a warm favourite to become England’s new No 3 batsman. The Ashes may depend on it. His new status will not be formalised until Thursday morning when the second Test in Adelaide begins but even now there remains scope for a change of strategy.

England are whistling in the dark at present, though they would prefer to call it being flexible. The meticulous planning and eye for detail that has been the calling card of this regime has been usurped by unforeseeable issues.

As is the way, Root offered assurances and platitudes yesterday that he would be proud to bat for England anywhere he was asked. His short Test career has already embraced six, five, two and a return to six. Three is the blue riband position, frequently, though not invariably, occupied by a side’s most accomplished and glamorous batsman.

Don Bradman, for Australia, and Wally Hammond, for England, gave it all the kudos it needed and they have been followed by the likes of Viv Richards, Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. Michael Clarke, for instance, has often been urged recently to bat there as Australia’s best player but has resisted it, perhaps sensing that it would expose the side lower down.

It takes a particular set of skills and if that can be said of most positions in the order, the others do not have to combine the skills both of an opener and strokemaker. The position carries wide responsibilities and batsmen know it.

“I’d love to bat three, I’d love to bat five, I’d love to open,” said Root. “If I get an opportunity to bat at three I’ll cope with the situation and try and make sure I do the best job possible for England.

“I don’t think it differs too much from opening. You can be in there second ball of the game and other times you can be in there in the 60th or 100th over of the game if you’re playing exceptionally well. In that regard it’s quite nice that I’ve opened and batted down the order because I’ve covered all bases and I’ve got those experiences to call upon. I’ll just make sure I try and take as much from them to help me if I am to bat at three.”

England have yet to make a definite decision. They had plenty of time yesterday to mull over that and other matters – such as whether they play two spinners – when their flight from Alice Springs to Adelaide was delayed by six hours. It was another little thing going wrong on a tour where lots of little and too many big things have gone wrong.

The break in the central outback may have been good for them, though the two-day match also did not go according to plan, with only Gary Ballance scoring a fifty. Of the eight wickets England took, seven of them fell to the spin of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, giving them a morsel of food for thought amid the batting order summit.

Ian Bell, though willing anywhere, has long sought a move back to No 3. The last time he was specifically picked to bat there he made 235. That was at The Oval in the second of two Tests in which he replaced the injured Jonathan Trott against India in 2011.

The position has become suddenly vacant because poor Trott has left the Ashes tour with a stress-related illness. He is a difficult act to follow. England will not lightly discard Bell’s obvious claims.

He restated them on Saturday evening in Alice Springs after England finished their two-day match against a Chairman’s XI without looking especially convincing at any point. “We’ve spoken about it and while we’re lucky enough to have a number of options I’ve put my hand up,” Bell said.It can be taken that he will be disappointed when his application is rejected. Bell will feel he has unfinished business as an Ashes No 3. It never quite worked out for him in 2006-07 when his 10 innings brought him 330 runs. 

Bell is a different player now but England will turn to Root primarily for two reasons. Of the 185 men to have batted at first drop for England – 56 of them had only one innings there, filling in for illness or as nightwatchmen – only Hammond with 3,440 runs has scored more than Trott’s 3,109. It is measure of the task facing the next man. 

If Bell were to take over, it would mean that England would almost certainly move up Root from six to five and bring in a new No 6. Chopping and changing might be flexible but it is also the hallmark of a team which knows where it wants to go but is not sure how to get there (see Australia last summer).

Moving Root up would at least keep the middle-order engine room of Kevin Pietersen and Bell together at four and five. Root also brings the virtues of an opening batsman to the role. There are pleasant precedents for England of picking in the first three batting positions men who are all openers by trade.

In 1970-71, Geoff Boycott and Brian Luckhurst opened the batting, while John Edrich (with whom Boycott opened in 21 other Tests) went in at three. It worked splendidly, with each of them averaging over 50 and contributing two hundreds. In 2005, Andrew Strauss opened the batting with Marcus Trescothick while Michael Vaughan, who had made a golden reputation as Test opener, went in at three. It was not quite so overwhelmingly triumphant a ploy as 35 years previously but England still won the Ashes.

If it will now look a makeshift arrangement, it could just work. Much, maybe everything now, will depend on the senior triumvirate: Alastair Cook, Bell and Pietersen. At least of two of them must function at the peak of their form from here on and anything from elsewhere will be gratefully received.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015