Ian Bell faces long road back after missing out on England Test squad

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Ian Bell's long and improbable road back to Test cricket cannot start in earnest until next spring, but he has already said all the right things about his future intentions.

The five-time Ashes winner will be 34 before he can state his case for reinclusion with runs for Warwickshire, as prescribed by national selector James Whitaker after Bell's shock omission from a 16-man squad to travel to South Africa next month.

Bell has already vowed an appetite to do so, though, and sent his best wishes too to those who will take on the world number one Test team without him over Christmas and the new year.

He was visited in person on Wednesday by England and Wales Cricket Board director - and his former Test captain - Andrew Strauss to inform him he would not be on the plane to South Africa next month.

Public confirmation came the next morning with the announcement of a squad which featured returns for batsmen Nick Compton and Gary Ballance, a maiden tour for uncapped left-arm seamer Mark Footitt and no place for leg-spinner Adil Rashid - who will instead travel to play for Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash.

Footitt, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan all make the tour to contest the role of third seamer after injuries to Steven Finn and Mark Wood - the latter due for surgery on his ankle impingement next week.

Whitaker explained the reasons for dropping Bell, who has 22 hundreds on his 118-Test CV but none since Antigua in March and only four 50s in 23 subsequent attempts.

"It was a very difficult decision, and not taken lightly," said Whitaker.

"It's been fairly obvious over the last seven or eight months that he's struggled for form, and it's the best thing to give opportunities to other people in that position.

"It'll give him time to reflect now, and come back stronger."

Within minutes of the squad announcement, Bell wrote on Twitter: "I'm absolutely gutted not to be selected for the tour to SA.

"I certainly feel I could have contributed out there & have been working tirelessly 2 get into the best possible condition for the tour.

"I'm going2enjoy a winter break with my family for the 1st time in 11yrs, and come back determined to win my place back.

"Wishing all the guys selected the best of luck."

They reciprocated the goodwill, in the person of Jos Buttler - himself dropped from the Test team but, as he prepares to help England close out one-day international series victory over Pakistan in Dubai on Friday, able to look forward to a South Africa tour on which he can push for his place back as first-choice wicketkeeper.

"Any time you see Ian Bell's name not in an England squad in the last 10 years, you'd be very surprised," said Buttler.

"I've been just recently dropped as well. If you're not performing, that's the way it goes.

"But Ian is a class player, and has been over a long period for England.

"He's determined to win his place back, which shows great professionalism. I' m sure he will."


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