In the build up to the fourth Ashes test at Melbourne there have been many in the England camp calling for Ian Bell to be pushed, from his current position at No.6, up the English batting order. However, they will be disappointed after England skipper Andrew Strauss said they would resist the temptation to do so and would instead bank on No.4 Paul Collingwood rediscovering his form.
Bell has been England's best batsmen so far in the series, though he is yet to make his first Ashes ton. His scores of 76, 68 (not out) and 53 in his first three innings of the series showed his appetite for runs as well as maturity in comparison to the 2005 Ashes series when Shane Warne tormented his young self to no end.
In contrast, Collingwood has been in poor form of late and has gone 10 innings since a Test half-century.
When invited to comment on the possibility of Collingwood and Bell switching positions, their Skipper, Strauss said, I don't think so. I'm not going to 100% rule it out but I'd be surprised if we went down that route. Belly has been a very reassuring presence at No.6 and there may come a time in the future where he can go up the order.
But now is not the time for massive changes. It is the time to go back to what has worked very well for us on this tour and Belly has been a fine example of a No.6 batsman coming in and taking the game away from the opposition.
He's in very good form and I can appreciate why people are clamoring for him to go up the order but I'm very happy with what he is doing down there. The main problem is that he has been left with the tail because there haven't been batsmen alongside him building big partnerships and that is our job.
About Collingwood, the skipper had only words of praise. He said, We all know what Colly is like, he is a great fighter. He might not have scored as many runs as he would have liked in the series but he's at his best when his back is against the wall and we've got great faith in him. He's got a lot of experience to fall back on. He's played some pivotal innings in Ashes matches in the past and there is no reason not to expect more of that from him.
In the other camp, the Australians can have a peaceful Christmas lunch after it was more or less confirmed that their skipper Ricky Ponting would be able to do his job for the fourth test after coming through a scheduled net session without any obvious discomfort despite a broken finger.
Ponting told The Australian, If there is ever a Test you want to play it's Boxing Day in Melbourne. I'm confident I'll be there playing in front of what we all hope will be a world-record crowd of 91,000 or more at the MCG, because it doesn't get much bigger than this. I will be very surprised if I'm not out in the middle tossing the coin with (England captain) Andrew Strauss come Boxing Day.
His vice-captain, Michael Clarke, who would have been standing-in if Ponting had experienced difficulties, said Ricky is pretty happy with how things went. He said it felt pretty good after facing some balls on the machines and facing the bowlers (in the nets). We're all hopeful and confident. Unless they cut his finger off, it's going to be really hard to leave Punter (Ponting) out.
The fourth and crucial Ashes test will start on Boxing Day, at the MCG, Melbourne.