Bell replaces Stokes in Lions squad
Durham allrounder Ben Stokes has been ruled out of next week's England Lions match against West Indies with a back injury. Warwickshire's Ian Bell has replaced Stokes in the squad for the four-day fixture which begins in Northampton on Thursday.
While Bell made a century in the Championship match against Durham this week, he was keen for more time in the middle following a lean spell of form. Prior to that century, Bell had passed 20 only four times in his last 20 first-class innings and admitted that he had felt out of sorts at the crease. Warwickshire do not have a Championship game next week, so Bell had intended to content himself with facing Warwickshire's bowlers in a net on the square at Edgbaston.
"I just haven't have enough time at the crease," Bell said following his century. "I'm netted out, to be honest. I've had enough time in the net. It's scoring runs that helps your confidence and your form. I feel I've just been scratching around. It started in the UAE, but even here, in the last two games, I just didn't feel the rhythm was there. Even the 50 I made in Sri Lanka, on a really good batting wicket, felt like hard work."
The news is a further setback to Stokes. Although he made his international debuts in T20 and ODI cricket towards the end of last season, he was hampered by a finger injury that forced him out of contention for the winter tours. The back injury is not thought to require surgery and is thought to be a recurrence of a stress reaction that bothered him as a teenager. He will receive anti-inflammatory injections in his back this week but will not be available for Durham's match against Somerset.
Geoff Miller, England's national selector, said: "It is unfortunate that Ben's injury has ruled him out of the match against West Indies. Ian Bell was keen to play another game ahead of the Test series and after performing well for Warwickshire this week this match provides an ideal opportunity for him to continue his preparations as well as helping to ensure England Lions prove challenging opposition for West Indies."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo