Brisbane: In an Ashes cricket series already notable for four-letter words, England's only options to replace Jonathan Trott at No. 3 in its batting order for the second Test against Australia seem to be men named Joe Root and Ian Bell.
Trott abruptly quit England's tour on Monday because of a stress-related illness, leaving a critical vacancy that only the prolific veteran Ian Bell or the cool-headed youngster Joe Root seem qualified to fill.
The successful candidate must not only defuse the threat of Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, a match-winner in the first test at Brisbane, but withstand the verbal heat Australia generated in the Ashes opener and are likely to re-kindle at Adelaide.
England coach Andy Flower indicated pn Tuesday that he is ready to try to take some heat out of the second Test battle by meeting with his Australia counterpart, Darren Lehmann, in peace talks designed to place limits on future sledging.
Australia captain Michael Clarke was fined 20 percent of his match fee from the Brisbane test after stump microphones picked up his warning to England No. 11 batsman James Anderson to "get ready for a ... broken arm." Australian media have since reported Clarke was responding to an alleged threat from Anderson to punch Australia batsman George Bailey.
England was most incensed by comments made to local media by Australian opening batsman David Warner about Trott's recent lack of form against fast bowling in which he called the Englishman "very poor and very weak." Warner subsequently admitted his comments "probably went a little bit too far."
Flower condemned Warner's comments as "disrespectful" and "ignorant" but said it would be inaccurate to link the remarks to Trott's sudden decision to return to England. The England coach said he was eager to prevent the sensitive issue of Trott's illness becoming a topic of conversation on the pitch in the second test which begins in Adelaide on Dec. 5.
He said he would be prepared to meet with Lehmann to discuss boundaries for future verbal confrontation.
Flower told English reporters on Monday "now that you've brought it up (talking to Lehmann) I'll have to think about it.
"I don't think (Trott's illness) should be raised on the pitch. We're there to play cricket," he said. "A balance has got to be found on the pitch between competitiveness and not overstepping the line.
"We all have a responsibility, both sides and the leaders involved, to find the right balance and the way we play the game on the field. We're all adults out there."
The lingering fallout from the savage verbal battle in Brisbane can't disguise the practical problem England faces in replacing Trott from the resources of its current squad. Factions have already formed to press the cases for Root, who is at least a natural opener, and Bell, who offers experience and proven solidity.
Former England captain Michael Atherton backed Root, saying he had shown the ability to "disarm" Johnson's hostility with an "angelic smile" during his unbeaten 26 in the second innings at Brisbane.
"I thought Root played really well at the dying end of the test at the Gabba; I thought he looked really solid," Atherton told Sky Television. "He played Mitchell Johnson well, he looked compact, he got a nice stride into the ball.
"He also dealt with all of the verbals. It was a very intense passage of play and his angelic smile seemed to disarm Mitchell Johnson as well."
Another former England skipper, Nasser Hussain, opted for Bell who was the Man of the Series in the Ashes series in England earlier this year, scoring a century in each of England's wins.
Bell usually bats at No. 5 and any move risks disrupting the balance of the England order, but Hussain said he seemed best-equipped to cope with the trial of batting at No. 3. That move would likely mean Jonny Bairstow would join the England lineup at No. 6, while Kevin Pietersen would move up to No. 4 and Root to No. 5.
Zimbabwe-born Gary Ballance could also be considered at No. 5 if England prefers a left-hand option.
"Bell is a high-class, very experienced player with lots of touch," Hussain said. "He's got runs against Australia of late and he is the obvious man to move up to No. 3.
"It would be tough on Root because he would have gone from six to two, from six to three and as a young lad you don't want to be moving around the order like that."