Have England dropped a clanger for the South Africa Test series?
Many would suggest that Ian Bell has been dining in the last chance saloon for much of his England career. Despite averaging over 40, the Warwickshire batsmen has often seemed to be one poor series away from being dropped. But Bell has survived to play 115 Tests, before the axe finally fell, with the stylish right hander missing out on the South Africa series.
Bell has survived this long partly because of the lack of quality competition, which must leave him scratching his head at being replaced by a combination of Nick Compton and Gary Ballance. Compton averaged under 32 in his nine Tests and Ballance who, after a great start in Test cricket, disintegrated against fast, full bowling and only averaged 35 for Yorkshire after being dropped.
Other changes have been Mark Footit coming in for the injured Wood and Finn ahead of Liam Plunkett and Samit Patel coming in for Adil Rashid. Footit has been in devastating form for Derbyshire for the last two seasons and the left handed bowler will add variety to the pace attack. The Rashid decision looked a regressive step at first glance but on reflection he would be better served playing cricket rather than carrying drinks in South Africa.
So what of England's chances?
Much will depend on whether South Africa's big three of Steyn, De Villiers and Amla, who are all the wrong side of 30, are still at their peak or starting to decline. Either way it should be a close series and I fancy England to nick the series in the last Test at Centurion.