Two wonderful things happened this afternoon, while I was watching the rugby. The first is that Ian Bell was out for 4. The second is that the West Indies reduced England, at one point, to 26-7, after a fantastic spell from Jerome Taylor, whose figures are 9-5-11-5, and have just dismissed them for 51, to win by an innings and 23 runs.
The first thing is wonderful, as it really ought to mean that the selectors call time on Ian Bell’s Test career. Since hitting 199 against South Africa, Bell has had a dozen Test innings, with scores of 31, 4, 50, 20, 24, 4, 17, 7, 1, 24*, 28 and now 4, for an average over the period of about 19.5. He’s always been vulnerable to the charge that he gets cheap runs — although his overall Test average is 40.59,Â his average against the three strongest sides in world cricket (Australia, India and South Africa) is only 28.66, and (my favourite factoid), although he’s hit eight centuries,Â he’s never reached 100 in an innings when someone else hasn’t reached 100 first. So another Bell failure is a good thing, as it would just be embarrassing to have Bell batting in the Ashes this summer.
The second thing is wonderful, insofar as it’s not good for cricket to have an enfeebled West Indian side. They’ve been too poor for too long, and it’s high time series involving the West Indies became competitive again. It’s also a good thing that their fine performance has been based on several individual contributions, batting and bowling, but without anything special from Chanderpaul, who has been their most reliable player over the last couple of years. That bodes well for the future.
The trouble, of course, is that the second thing might counteract the first. If England had batted well, and only Bell had failed badly, it’d be obvious to drop him. But England’s batting was so bad, to the extent that Bell, with his scores of 28 and 4, was in fact the fourth-highest scorer in both innings. And given that the selectors have given Bell far too many chances in the past, this collective batting disaster might give the selectors yet another excuse to keep him in the side. Bugger.