Warwickshire are dreading the loss of Ian Bell to England duty, according to coach Dougie Brown.

The Bears have been hugely reliant on the England batsman, who has already surpassed 500 runs this season. Brown fears that Bell’s absence could have a dramatic effect on their push for the County Championship Division One title, particularly after their heavy loss to Yorkshire last time out.

The defeat by an innings and 155 runs in the game at Headingley that lasted just three days has toppled Warwickshire off the summit, and it appears they may have developed something of an over-dependency on Bell, suggesting their challenge may not be sustainable without him.

Some comfort may be found in title rival Yorkshire’s similar plight, as they will soon be losing Joe Root and possibly Gary Ballance to England duty.

For Warwickshire, however, the signs are already there after they were bowled out for just 87 in a home match against Sussex last month, the kind of batting collapse that Brown worries could become a regular occurrence without Bell holding up the order. It was followed up by a total of 89 against Yorkshire.

Brown has put their struggles partly down to the pitches they have played on, which he said “have been in the bowlers’ favour”.

Despite his youth, teenager Sam Hain will be required to continue his strong start to his career. The 18-year-old hit an impressive 42 runs on his County Championship debut innings against Middlesex. Hain was slotted in at number four, the greatest indication yet that he is being lined up for the summer as Bell’s replacement.

England head coach Peter Moores has confirmed Bell will also play a part in the limited overs series against Sri Lanka and India, which will take him away from the Bears for the rest of the season.

Mercifully, Warwickshire now have a break from the Championship to recoup after their recent loss, their next game coming against Somerset on May 25. Before that, however, Brown must rally his troops for the Natwest T20 blast. While Boyd Rankin will be hoping to use the tournament to catch the eye of England’s selectors, Warwickshire must have mixed feelings about any more potential call-ups, having already lost Bell.

T20 cricket will admittedly give the Edgbaston outfit’s struggling batsmen a chance to practice their accuracy and intent, but Brown will be fearing the worst, that Bell’s departure could provide a hammer blow to their season.

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