Fourth Ashes Test 2023: Former Ashes winner Ian Bell backs England ahead of must-win match at Old Trafford

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Ian Bell played in five Ashes series scoring nearly 2,000 runs against the Australians

It’s make or break: the Fourth Ashes Test match is here and there is no time for hanging about. England must win if they are to keep the fire alive and head into The Oval still with a chance of winning back that precious urn.

To say this has been a dramatic series would undoubtedly be an understatement and yet there is still so much more to come as Ben Stokes leads his ‘Bazball’ squad into two must-win matches.

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If there is anyone who knows anything about Ashes fight backs, it’s Ian Bell who, in 2013, became the first man to reach triple figures in three successive Ashes Test matches since Chris Broad in 1986.

Since his retirement from the field, the former England batting champion has moved into coaching, working closely with England A last winner and as such has become well versed in the ‘Bazball’ way.

Speaking exclusively to NationalWorld, in partnership with Betfair, Bell revealed his hopes and expectations ahead of the next instalment in the spectacle that is the 2023 Ashes series…

Ian Bell celebrates one of his three Ashes centuries in 2013 seriesIan Bell celebrates one of his three Ashes centuries in 2013 series
Ian Bell celebrates one of his three Ashes centuries in 2013 series | Getty Images

“Foakes, he probably would have taken them.”

The most popular topic of discussion which has emerged in the past couple of Tests in particular is the role of Jonny Bairstow. Coming in from a huge injury over the winter, the wicket-keeper batter has struggled both with bat and gloves.

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A strong 78 in the first innings of the opening Test has been the highlight of England’s number seven with his next highest score being 20. The Yorkshire-man has also failed to pick up catches which someone else in England might have done.

When posed with the Johnny Bairstow vs Ben Foakes dilemma, Bell pointed out that at this stage of the series, it is far too late to be bringing in such changes but it may not be too long until the Surrey wicket-keeper is back behind the stumps with England:

“It was always a tough ask to get (Bairstow) up to speed with where he was, but he’s a match-winner.

“If you ask me who I think will keep wicket in the winter Test against India, I think Ben Foakes will. You need your best wicket-keeper, in India, in those conditions. You want to take all your chances and you can’t afford to drop.

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“Johnny would probably openly admit it himself, he’s let a few go and Ben, the quality he is as a keeper, probably would have taken them.

“But it would be a big change to make that now - they’re all in with Johnny for this series.”

“We’re going to have a fired-up Jimmy”

James Anderson is now back in the squad after a rest in Headingley. Anderson is the most prolific fast-bowler ever, taking 688 Test wickets over a career that has spanned 20 years. However, he has taken just three wickets in his first two matches, failing to sparkle fans with his usual emblazoned bowling.

But does this make him now arguably even more dangerous? The 40-year-old is now ready and waiting to bowl from the James Anderson End at Old Trafford, and is due a fiery spell.

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Having played alongside the Lancashire seamer for the best part of two decades, Bell said of his former teammate: “Because of the standards that Jimmy sets, it was quite a shock. We expect him to get wickets with that new ball, he’s going to swing it, seam it, do everything to it, he’s that good.”

Anderson was then forced to watch Mark Wood and Chris Woakes dominate a wicket on which he would doubtless have thrived but this will only add to the passion we are set to see: “He would have been internally burning! He will be desperate. He does find a way of coming back. He’s a champion bowling and we’re going to have a fired-up Jimmy. I hope we will see the best of Jimmy Anderson.”

“Mo: he’s team first all the time”

Moeen Ali has caused several stirs in this series. The former Worcestershire seamer received an “Ashes?” text from Stokes following the news that Jack Leach had been ruled out and will now be competing in his third Test match since 2021.

He is now coming in to bat at number three after it was confirmed Ollie Pope had suffered a series-ending shoulder injury.

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While the off-spinner has opened up the batting in the IPL, Test cricket is a completely different kettle of fish and positioning Ali at three has indubitably stressed several England fans. Bell was, however, quick to point out that while it isn’t an ideal situation, Ali is unquestionably the right man for this job: “I don’t think there’s a perfect solution, I think the easier option for me would have been for Joe Root to go to three, but you could argue he averages over 50 at four so why move your best player?

I don’t mind it but this isn’t a long-term fix. This is a ‘how are we going to win at Old Trafford?’.

“I look at this XI and think, yeah they can at Old Trafford.”

England vs Australia’s fourth Ashes Test match is available to watch on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Cricket with play starting at 11am each day until Sunday 23 July 2023.

For more from Betfair Ambassador, Ian Bell head to https://betting.betfair.com/cricket/

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