FORMER England batsman Rob Key has leapt to the defence of under-fire Ian Bell and urged the selectors not to axe him during the Ashes series.
The 33-year-old Warwickshire batsman has been a mainstay in the England side for a decade but, following their harrowing 405-run defeat by Australia at Lord’s to level the series after two Ashes Tests, accusing fingers have been pointed at the England top order, with Walsgrave-born Bell among those whose position is in question.
In five of his last 11 Test match innings Bell has been out for one run and he also registered a pair against West Indies in Bridgetown.
However, as a relative veteran embarking on his seventh Ashes series, former Princethorpe College student Bell remains a key member of the England team according to Kent batsman Key.
“You stand by people like Ian Bell because they are class acts,” said Key.
“He is a senior player and if he finds form he will score important runs for England.
“He was probably the main catalyst of us winning the last Ashes series over here. I hope that he finds form because, when he does, he is an absolute match-winner.
“In that camp let’s hope they have a fair amount of perspective.”
Following England’s whitewash defeat to Australia in 2013/14, few gave Alastair Cook’s men a chance of regaining the urn this summer.
However, the doubters were forced to think again after England won the first Test in Cardiff, winning by 169 runs as middle-order batsman Joe Root produced a man of the match display.
And, although the series is level with three matches to play after England were well beaten at the home of cricket, Key believes Cook’s men have at least played themselves into contention in the series.
“I don’t think anybody gave England a price in this Ashes series because Australia were expected to be so dominant and they have shown that is not the case,” he added.
“We beat Australia and there are all these different things being said about them then, all of a sudden, England lose and it is all about them.
“The (Lord’s) pitch didn’t suit England’s bowling at all. They lost a pretty big toss at Lord’s but they have already shown they can beat this Australia side.”
Key was speaking ahead of the start of this season’s Royal London One-Day Cup. Royal London are proud sponsors of one-day cricket. Visit www.royallondoncricket.com.