Ian Bell: Trevor Bayliss hints at batsman's inclusion for SA tour
Coach Trevor Bayliss has hinted Ian Bell will be selected for England's Test tour of South Africa this winter.
Bell was England's third-highest run-scorer in their 2-0 series loss to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, with 158 runs at an average of 31.60.
However, some have called for the 33-year-old to be dropped - including ex-England batsman Geoffrey Boycott.
"Ian has obviously got a lot of experience which the team needs at this stage," said Bayliss.
"He wants to keep playing which is fantastic."
The form of Warwickshire batsman Bell has been a concern all year, with the right-hander averaging 26 in 13 Tests in 2015 compared with a career average of 43.
Perhaps the most pressing issue in the UAE was his inability to build on some solid starts as he posted scores of 63, 46 and 40 - while his run of single-digit returns continued and now stretches to 11 in 24 innings.
He was bowled for a duck in the second innings of the third Test, which ended with England being bowled out for 156 on the final day as they slid to a 127-run defeat.
"Ian has had a tough tour," admitted captain Alastair Cook. "When you get in, you have to go big. He'll be disappointed.
"He's worked hard and been good around the lads. He just hasn't delivered what he would have liked."
'Batting is a concern'
England suffered two batting collapses against Pakistan which ultimately led to the series defeat, meaning they have now collapsed in 18 of their last 25 Tests.
They have yet to find a long-term partner to open with Cook since Andrew Strauss's retirement in 2012, while prolific run-getters Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Paul Collingwood have all vacated the middle order in recent years for a variety of reasons.
It means that, of England's batsmen who played in the UAE, only Cook (122) has played more Tests than Bell (118).
Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow have all played 20 or fewer Tests and Bayliss, speaking to the BBC's Test Match Special, said: "One of the things we need is for our middle order to get experience.
"Even while I've been here, we have changed the order around a little bit and tried to look for the right batters in that middle order.
"Over a period of time, if we can get the right mix in there and the players play some games together, then we will start to see some consistency."
Cook agreed that "the batting is a concern", and believes performances will improve with time and support.
"This side is different, there are new guys coming in and finding their feet," the 30-year-old said. "We have to keep backing the guys and they have to realise how good you have to be to be a consistent player."
'There are spots up for grabs'
England, who have slipped to sixth in the world Test rankings, face South Africa in a four-match series next with the first game starting on Boxing Day.
They have many issues to address, with Moeen's form as opener a concern, while they will also consider how long to give wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, 26, behind the stumps after the Yorkshireman replaced Jos Buttler for the third Test.
"It didn't go as we would have liked or how Mo would have liked," said Bayliss. "I will sit down with the selectors in about a week's time to discuss the team for South Africa and I'm sure that will be one of the top conversations.
"But it is a message to the rest of the openers in county cricket: there are spots up for grabs. We want to see players, especially at the top of the order, scoring a lot of runs."
On Bairstow, who scored 43 in the first innings and also took three catches behind the stumps, Bayliss added: "I think Jonny kept pretty well in this match, I like to think he'll get a run now.
"He missed one vital chance (on the fourth morning) but his glovework was, that aside, good and he showed what he can do with the bat."
Misbah undecided on future
Pakistan, who rose to second in the world rankings following the victory in Sharjah, do not play another Test until they visit England next summer.
By then, their skipper Misbah-ul-Haq will have celebrated his 42nd birthday,
There have been rumours that Misbah, who scored 352 runs in the three-match series against England, might retire but he refused to reveal his plans after the match.
"I've got some time; we don't play another series for seven or eight months," he said. "It's good for me to go and think whether I want to continue or not. Let's see."
On the victory in the third Test, he added: "Credit should go to the England team - they put up a good fight.
"The boys did very well - especially (leg-spinner) Yasir Shah with the way he bowled; he won us two games. If you look at the whole series, there is a contribution from every person - that's a pleasing sign for a captain and the team."