Southampton: Jun 16, 2012
England faced an anxious wait to discover if Ian Bell would be able to take Kevin Pietersen's place as a one-day opener after the Warwickshire batsman suffered a freak injury on Friday.
England, reeling from Pietersen's shock limited overs retirement, start one-day life without the South Africa-born batsman in the first of a three-match series against the West Indies on Saturday.
But the eve of the game saw Bell top-edge a pull into his face during routine throw-downs in the Rose Bowl indoor nets from fielding coach Richard Halsall.
Bell suffered a gash to his chin and was taken to hospital where 10 stitches were inserted into the wound.
An England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) statement later on Friday said Bell had suffered a possible non-displaced fracture of the jaw but had not been ruled out of the game, adding a decision on his fitness would be taken on Saturday before the toss.
Bell has only just been recalled to the England one-day squad after missing the series against Pakistan where Pietersen finished his international limited overs career with back-to-back hundreds.
England one-day captain Alastair Cook was coy on the identity of his new opening partner in the event Bell was ruled out, although the skipper's Essex team-mate Ravi Bopara could be promoted from his likely number four berth.
"Ian Bell got hit in the nets today and has got a gash on his chin," Cook said Friday.
"It is a concern, because he didn't look in a good way when he walked off.
"There was quite a lot of blood, and he has had stitches."
"We will have to play it by ear," added Cook of Bell's possible replacement.
West Indies' line-up is set to feature several big-hitters in the top order, notably dynamic opener Chris Gayle.
If Bell is fit, England's top three has a more conservative look about it with left-hander Cook and number three Jonathan Trott both known for solid accumulation of runs rather than aggressive strokeplay.
In 108 ODIS the 30-year-old Bell averages a modest 34 with just the one hundred to his credit.
By contrast Pietersen's 127 ODIs yielded nine hundreds and more than 4,000 runs at an average of over 41.
"Clearly Kevin is a world-class player," said Cook. "He's scored a lot of runs and has played some match-winning innings for England.
"But we have won games before without Kevin Pietersen, against Pakistan in 2010 and against India - and it is time to move on now. It gives an opportunity to someone else to make those middle overs theirs."
Pietersen, who remains a Test player, quit white ball international cricket after the England management refused him his wish to play Twenty20s while abandoning 50-over matches.
Meanwhile Cook, who has proved an adept one-day player since assuming the captaincy after a long spell on the sidelines from England limited overs cricket because of his 'unsuitable' style, backed Bell to come good in one-dayers.
"I think the best players can adapt to all conditions, and we've all seen how good Belly is in Test cricket," he said.
"In one-day cricket, he'll be the first to admit he hasn't quite reached the heights he would have liked.
"But I don't see any reason why he can't thrive in one-day cricket now." (AFP)