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