London, July 26 (ANI): England's cricket selectors are likely to confirm Ian Bell as injured Kevin Pietersen's replacement for the third Ashes Test that gets underway from Thursday (July 30), even as rumors are afloat that fast bowler Steve Harmison is set to announce his retirement from international crcket after this year's Ashes series.
Though Harmison and Monty Panesar are in all likelihood to be retained in the national squad, the Daily Mirror reports that Harmison will announce his international retirement after the Ashes.
Coach Andy Flower has confirmed after the Lord's victory that Bell was next in line for a berth. Now that Pietersen has been ruled out for the series, Bell will return to the side for the first time since being dropped following England's defeat against West Indies, at Sabina Park, in February.
At the start of the summer Bell was told to show "more hunger" for a recall and has subsequently made 647 runs in the Championship at 64.70, although his haul was dented by a double failure in the recent match against Hampshire where he made 7 and 0.
The selectors may have been tempted to include another batting option in the party, but Bell is set to be unchallenged.Bell's position is partly eased due to the lack of outstanding candidates elsewhere. If further injuries were to deplete the batting order, Robert Key, Joe Denly, Stephen Moore and Owais Shah would be the likely names for a call-up.
Key has recently returned to form with a career-best 270, Denly and Moore impressed for England Lions against the Australians and Shah made a hundred for Middlesex last week.
Bell, if selected, is likely to bat two-down. The other options are to return at first drop and push the struggling Ravi Bopara down the order or promote Paul Collingwood and put Bell at No. 5.
With the Edgbaston pitch already being described as jelly by groundsman Steve Rouse, England are covering their bases by retaining both Harmison and Panesar.
The likely squad: Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior (wk), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graham Onions, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar. (ANI)