England’s overdue Ashes Test success at Lord’s provided the selectors with the luxury of sticking close to a winning formula when they announced their squad for Edgbaston.
Geoff Miller and colleagues delivered exactly what they said they would, Ian Bell retained without extra batting cover to replace the injured Kevin Pietersen and Steve Harmison providing the pace-bowling contingency plan should Andrew Flintoff’s knee fail him.
England’s 13-man squad also contains Monty Panesar as an extra spin option behind Graeme Swann, just as he was at Lord’s – where the slow left-armer’s services were not ultimately required in an Andrew Flintoff-inspired 115-run victory which put the hosts 1-0 up on Australia with three to play.
The winning momentum established is a precious commodity – and with Pietersen’s enforced absence for the remainder of the series after his Achilles surgery, England see no benefit in any more staff changes.
Bell will return to win his 48th Test cap on his home ground – having missed the last seven since February after falling out of favour.
He was retained in the Ashes squads as cover for Pietersen at Cardiff and Lord’s, however.
Even though two failures for Warwickshire last week interrupted his previously impressive county form, England have no qualms about his inclusion – although it appears his batting position could be anywhere from three to six.
“Kevin’s injury has presented an opportunity for Ian Bell, who we know is a top-class batsman with an excellent international record for England,” Miller said.
“Ian will be looking to make the most of his return to the side during an Ashes series and, while we have a strong idea of where he will bat, we won’t be disclosing the final line-up of the side until the toss on Thursday.”
Miller has every confidence that 27-year-old Bell has the class to put last week’s disappointments at the Rose Bowl behind him.
“He got a hundred just recently and he’s been in pretty good form – he’s a very good player,” he said. “We know he’s an international quality player – and just because he got a nought in his last innings, he’s very likely to go and get a 150.”