County news April 18, 2012

Bell begins search for form with Warwickshire


Ian Bell returns to county duty on Thursday looking to put a testing winter behind him and re-establish his credentials as one of the world's leading middle-order batsmen.

Bell enjoyed a prolific 2011, registering five Test centuries and averaging 118.75 in the calendar year. That all changed over the winter as Bell, struggling against the spin of Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal in particular, averaged 8.50 in three Tests in the UAE and 27.66 in the two on England's tour of Sri Lanka. He was also omitted from the limited-overs squads that played against Pakistan.

Bell, who turned 30 earlier this month, retains a hunger to reclaim a place in all formats and was keen to return to county duty as early as possible. He takes his place in the Warwickshire team that finished second in last year's Championship and which travels to Liverpool to take on the current champions, Lancashire. Tom Smith remains unavailable for the hosts with a hamstring injury.

Andrew Strauss, another man looking to recover his form after a testing winter, also returns to county duty. The England Test captain will be joined in the Middlesex side by Steven Finn - who is pushing for inclusion as the third seamer in England's Test team - for their Division One match against Durham at Lord's. Chris Rogers will captain Middlesex as Neil Dexter has temporarily stood down in order to concentrate on finding his form with the bat.

Paul Collingwood, who missed the defeat against Nottinghamshire due to a virus, has recovered sufficiently to be named in a Durham squad containing eight players with international experience. There is still no place for Steve Harmison, however. England's former spearhead is currently playing second-XI cricket as he seeks full match fitness.

Somerset will be without the injured pair of Gemaal Hussain and Adam Dibble for their game against Nottinghamshire, who have won both their first two games, at Trent Bridge. Surrey are without Jacques Rudolph, who misses the game against Worcestershire for family reasons.

In Division Two, Ravi Bopara will replace Mark Pettini in the Essex side to take on Yorkshire at Headingley, with Charl Willoughby also included in the squad for the first time following his move from Somerset.

Edited by Alan Gardner

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on April 19, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    @WilliamFranklin on (April 19 2012, 08:56 AM GMT) Not sure of the stats.Although I remember Nasser Hussain saying that Bell should be moved up the order in the OD side to get them off to a more positive start. I wondered if it was just me thinking that Bell was pedestrian in that format , but then the stats came up and lo and behold the poorest SR of the top 6 in ODIs was Bell. Something which Nasser failed to notice.So re spin - I think they were saying something similar before this tour. Maybe there was or wasn't truth in it. I'm just not sure I trust what the experts say all the time

  • John on April 19, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    @jackiethepen on (April 19 2012, 07:49 AM GMT) Actually you did just say "Bell played very well against spin" and did not say in that particular inns even if that is what you meant. Re the only decent inns of the tour , sorry no I meant the UAE and SL combined inc the warm up games. Also I would say Prior was trying to be less selfish by trying to push the game forward.I would also say that Bell and Bopara actually get more OTT praise when they are doing well than unjust criticism when they are not. You have basically cited one inns in 19-20 (over the whole UAE/SL tour inc warm ups) where Bell had succeeded and even in that success where he was out shortly after getting his 50 he didn't see the inns through and if Monty or Jimmy had got out strauight away they'd have been 35 less. And you say about Bell staying with KP when he scored his 100 like it's a big thing. Bell is in the team to score runs not to hold an end up.

  • John on April 19, 2012, 8:57 GMT

    @barrick on (April 18 2012, 21:14 PM GMT) - I can see that happening too.I would say that regardless of how we all see Bell - and Bell was the worst of a bad bunch in UAE - The ECB should pull out all the stops to get their players (particularly batsmen) to try and play some cricket in India or somewhere in SC before they play India for real. The one good thing is that their bowling line up is not as good as Pak's but is probably better than SLs. One point I want to make is that I'm not singling out Bell - All of our batsmen had very poor tests by and large

  • Adam on April 19, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    Hasn't Bell always been known for being good against spin? It was just a poor four or so tests. He'll be fine.

  • Andy on April 19, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    It seems evident that under this English management, players are able to build up credit to tide them over and keep their place in leaner times; players such as Morgan who haven't been able to build this up are moved out, although a 4 bowler & Pietersen attack this winter would have caused even more problems, and the experiences of Strauss and Cook after place-saving innings against NZ and Pakistan, amongst others, ensures Bell's place this summer. I suspect that he may get a couple of Tests in India, but if he fails again in those, that should surely be enough evidence to replace him if just for the final two Tests.

  • Dummy4 on April 19, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    While can understand Australians that want Bell out of the England team ahead of next year's Ashes since they couldn't curb him last time round (329 runs from six innings at 65.80), I fail to see why England supporters single out Bell for what was a collective failure. If you just look at the tests played, every batsman bar Morgan had one or two decent innings, except KP who had a single, marvellous one. Apart from those one or two innings, the remainder weren't exactly the stuff to enhance a reputation (understatement). Just look at Cook - a brace of 94s while the remaining eight innings brought a mere 128 runs - or Pietersen - take away his 151 and he only had 142 from nine innings. And Mr Dobell, may I suggest that Bell's quest is not so much for form as for confidence!

  • Jackie on April 19, 2012, 7:49 GMT

    I didn't say that Bell played well against spin in UEA JG. I said he had put a lot of work in and played well against spin in the first innings in Galle! He was the ONLY top order batsmen to do so in that innings. Without Bell it would have been dire. He also kept up a end while KP hit his ton. After Bell was out Prior did the opposite and was out straight away. Patel took a leaf out of Bell's book and KP carried on. Unselfish batting for the team doesn't make many runs - but when the other batsman is hitting out to all parts it is absolutely the correct way to play. As for Bell's 'only one innings in the whole tour' - you mean one innings out of three? Bell got a poor umpiring decision at Galle - but that doesn't count either. Bell always attracts excess criticism. This same chorus would have dropped him years ago. Bairstow? Didn't he fail absolutely against spin in India? He's not ready. Bell played spin well against India in Bangalore and in the summer..and in Galle.

  • John on April 19, 2012, 6:31 GMT

    @Meety, no doubt strategy is likely to be a big factor. England failed as a batting unit in UAE and I think the main reason is they came up with a plan and that plan failed, which is not too big a deal in and of itself, but they then insisted on sticking to that plan doggedly for 3 1/2 Tests. At the very least they should have re-evaluated at the end of the series but nothing seemed to have changed in the first innings in Galle. Oddly enough it was Bell who was the standout in that innings. They looked to try something new from the second innings and things came together somewhat in Columbo. I think that things could have been different if England had tried to play in UAE the way they did in Columnbo, instead of just waiting for runs to appear out thin air while they played back and fell LBW. With their confidence restored by good results over the English summer, a better plan in India should stand the England batsmen in reasonable stead. Bell's main concern would be Ashwin's carrom.

  • Andrew on April 19, 2012, 4:09 GMT

    @AdrianVanDenStael - good point (I'm not a fan of Bell's), but the reason he is suppose to be "out of form" has nothiing to do with what he'll face in County cricket or the rest of the summer. I think he'll do well against the WIndies & the Saffas (who will have very good bowling attacks), but I would be quite confident he will fail in India against India who have a reputably poor bowling attack. @landl47 - given that some people say that scoring runs in Asia is easier on "flat" tracks, then its no great shame to be scoring runs on seam friendly home tracks. Most fair minded people would say that Bell is a very good batsmen who's flaws were exploited in certain conditions. I really don't think excuses such sa being "under cooked" will help the matter. He'll do well against County cricket, he should do well against the WIndies & Saffas, which I think is a good achievement. Odds on though he will crash in India, (unless as has been suggested he strategises better).

  • John on April 19, 2012, 3:00 GMT

    Bell was obviously unable to pick Ajmal's doosra in UAE but I'm not convinced that his issues go too much beyond that. He had a terrible tour of UAE, no doubt, and that would have affected his confidence, but he showed signs off getting that sorted in SL. I think he will do well in England this summer and then India will be his acid test. India don't have a spinner like Ajaml and if Bell's confidence is restored by then then I think he can succeed. If I'm proved wrong and he fails in India too, then I think it will be time to look elsewhere. The timing will be better than right now, with several young batsmen maturing about then to the point where they should hopefully be ready to step up to Test level.

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