Bell misses South Africa tour due to lack of form

England's Ian Bell has been left out of the tour to South Africa
England's Ian Bell has been left out of the tour to South Africa

Ian Bell faces the toughest of battles to reclaim his Test place - but so far, he has reacted exactly as England hoped and expected after being dropped for the tour of South Africa.

Five-time Ashes-winner Bell will be 34 before he can begin to state his case for re-inclusion, next summer.

But he has already vowed an appetite to do so, and sent his best wishes to those who will take on the world number one Test team.

Bell 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.

Public confirmation came the next morning with the announcement of a 16-man Test squad which featured returns for batsmen Nick Compton and Gary Ballance, a maiden tour for uncapped left-arm seamer Mark Footitt and surprisingly no place for leg-spinner Adil Rashid - who will instead turn his attention to playing for Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash.

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

National selector James Whitaker explained the reasons for dropping Bell, who has 22 hundreds in 118 Tests but none since March and only four fifties 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.”

England coach Trevor Bayliss has spoken several times since Bell dallied with retirement after last summer’s Ashes series victory of the value of his experience but also the need for all players to stay productive.

“Experience is great, but England players have to perform,” Whitaker added.