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


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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform