England Cricket: KP's back - so time for Bell to start ringing

Could Ian Bell be the answer as an opener for the Ashes?

Kevin Pietersen is stepping up his fitness work as he rejoins England's cricket squad while they contest a One Day Series against New Zealand. Ralph Ellis says he will have a big impact, even if he's not actually playing...

"The Warwickshire batsman was the other guy who more or less missed out in the runfest against the Kiwis with a top score of just 31. But his pedigree at Test level is proven and it might be that switching him to the top of the order would be just the challenge to bring the best from him again."


Reintegration was the buzz word for cricket last winter. The sub-plot to England's Test series triumph in India was all about bringing back the explosive batting talent of Kevin Pietersen and drawing a line under - or should that be pressing the delete button - on those silly texts.

In the event Alastair Cook got it dead right, KP made a huge contribution to the tour to the sub Continent, and all went well. But now it starts all over again. The ego has landed in the England camp today as Pietersen returns to work with the rest of the squad in preparation for the Ashes.

Coach Andy Flower has clearly laid down the policy that KP will be held back to take care over his fitness. He hasn't played since March, and although he is pain free following treatment on his knee, nobody wants to take any chances.

"We can't give a date or a timeline for Kevin playing - his focus is on getting back to fitness," said Flower.

As such Pietersen won't take any part in the One Day international series with New Zealand that starts tomorrow, or in the ICC Champions Trophy that follows it. He won't even bat against England's One Day bowlers in the nets because they will be locked into using a white ball while he needs practice against a red one.

But the shadow of Pietersen will hang over England's squad throughout all the ODI action because the big question will be who drops out of the side that thrashed New Zealand 2-0 to make way for his return.

Nick Compton is the obvious target, sent back to Somerset to try to find some form having mustered just 39 runs in four visits to the crease. But dropping him would mean Joe Root being moved up to open the innings, and coach Andy Flower might be reluctant to put the youngster in the firing line quite so quickly - especially after his brilliant performances in the middle order.

There is another answer - promote Ian Bell. The Warwickshire batsman was the other guy who more or less missed out in the runfest against the Kiwis with a top score of just 31. But his pedigree at Test level is proven and it might be that switching him to the top of the order would be just the challenge to bring the best from him again.

Bell will be opening in the one-dayers, and will know the Pietersen sub plot and that if Compton does survive he will be the next in the firing line to get dropped. All the more reason to think about backing him to be England's top series batsmanwhen the three match ODI series against New Zealand begins at Lord's tomorrow.

England are between 3.052/1 and 4.3100/30 in the early Series Score market to win 3-0, and after their comprehensive triumph in the Test series that looks well worth backing. New Zealand's batsmen all struggled in English conditions against a ball that swung and there's no reason to think they will do any better in the short form of the game than they did in the five-day matches.

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