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Bell decides to opt out of one-day Bears duty; NORTHAMPTON (third day): Northamptonshire 385 & 170-4 v Warwickshire 243.

Byline: By George Dobell Chief Cricket Writer at Wantage Road

Ian Bell will be the only England player missing from his county's limited-overs side in the run-up to the international series.

Warwickshire were hoping that Bell would be available for tomorrow's Friends Provident Trophy game against Northamptonshire tomorrow.

However it has emerged that Bell is not playing limited-overs cricket by his own request. He has decided to concentrate on his form in the longer form of the game ahead of the Test series against New Zealand. His decision is not thought to be coloured by events last season when he was omitted from Warwickshire's team to play in the semi-final of the competition. It may, however, raise some eyebrows.

Warwickshire have not attempted to persuade Bell to change his mind. Ashley Giles had a brief conversation with him after play last night, but was content to allow Bell to prepare as the player saw fit. "The player doesn't want to play and that's the end of it," Giles said.

The news emerged after Alastair Cook was cleared to play for Essex tomorrow following an extraordinary exchange between the England batting coach, Andy Flower, and angry county members. Sitting on a panel at a question and answer session at the county, Flower was asked why Cook wasn't playing in limited-overs cricket. When he failed to give a convincing answer, the county's director of cricket, Graham Gooch, asked the England management to reconsider and Cook has subsequently been released to play. Warwickshire will not be making such appeals to the England management.

Meanwhile the club were left digesting some sad news. Boyd Rankin, the towering fast bowler who had made a promising start to his time at Warwickshire, has had the results of a scan to ascertain the cause of pain in his shoulder.

It turns out that he has a SLAP lesion in his right shoulder and will undergo surgery shortly.

The recovery period is estimated at between three and six months which could rule him out for the remainder of the season.

That is a cruel blow to Rankin. He has worked hard to remodel his action and build up his fitness after suffering from stress fractures in his right foot and ankle. His form in preseason games had been promising and Warwickshire had high hopes that he could develop into a world-class bowler. He may yet. But the new blow does cast doubt over his future and questions remain whether his frame is sturdy enough to support his large body in the unnatural act of fast bowling.

"I just dived for a ball in the warm-up before the first day of the championship game against Worcestershire and landed awkwardly,"

Rankin said. "Then I went on as a substitute fielder and had to dive for another ball. When I tried to throw it in it felt as if I'd been stabbed.

"It's very frustrating. I'd worked so hard.

But it's better to have the operation now than let it get worse and hopefully I can get a few months cricket in later in the summer."

There is better news about Jim Troughton.

He will undergo a fitness test on Monday and, should he come through it, is likely to go straight back into the team for the game on Tuesday.

On the pitch, an intriguing final day is on the cards in the championship match between Warwickshire and Northants. Warwickshire will have to survive for around 75 overs if they are to escape with a draw; no easy task on a fourth day pitch and against two international spin bowlers. Northants' lead is already 312 but, with Bell in the Warwickshire side, the hosts will be unwilling to declare too early and allow the visitors even a sniff of victory.

That Warwickshire have any hope of saving the game is largely due to the success of their lower-order batsmen yesterday morning. Neil Carter and Ian Salisbury led a stirring counter-attack in the first session, adding 82 in 18 overs for the eighth wicket.

Salisbury (130 balls, ten fours and a six), dropped before he had added to his overnight four, compiled an unbeaten half-century on debut to ensure his side avoided the follow-on.

Mixing sound defence with powerful attack, he followed his decent showing with the ball with an impressive display with the bat.

Carter (54 balls, five fours and three sixes) was outrageous. Taking full toll of some poor bowling, he thrashed Lance Klusener for 20 in one over (4,4,6,0,6,0) and clipped three sixes over backward square leg.

Still, Warwickshire's decline in the over after lunch left the hosts with a lead of 142 and plenty of time to set up a declaration.

However, Warwickshire bowled much better in Northants' second innings. Lee Daggett, running in with more purpose and finding bounce and movement from this benign surface, bowled with impressive pace and fully deserved his three wickets as batsmen drove at good deliveries on off stump that they had to play. Had Tim Ambrose accepted a regulation chance off Rob White when the batsman had only four it could have been even better.

Stephen Peters, the former Worcestershire opener, made a polished half-century (115 balls, eight fours) but Northants' pace was too sedate to set-up a match-winning position.

Only David Sales showed the required aggression. At one stage Sales (29 balls, 11 fours) hit eight fours in ten balls as Daggett and Carter fed his pull shot. The introduction of spin accounted for him, however, caught at long-off, and Northants were content to play sedately until bad light caused a premature close.

"We were pretty poor for the first two days,"

Salisbury said, "so it was time to show some cojones. It's a young side, in transition, and there is a bit of a hangover from last year. But rather than be sheep and hide, we have to stand up and I just tried to show a bit of bottle. I was surprised they weren't more aggressive."

Certainly if Northants do fail to win this match they will have only themselves to blame.

They bowled poorly in the first session of the day and, Sales apart, failed to accelerate as they might have done in their second innings.

Perhaps their caution is understandable.

Steven Crook, their opening bowler, will take no further part in the match after sustaining a hamstring injury in the first innings.

WARWICKSHIRE (squad v Northamptonshire, Friends Provident Trophy, tomorrow): D Maddy (capt.), N Carter, I Westwood, J Trott, T Ambrose (wkt.), M Powell, N James, A Botha, T Groenewald, C Woakes, M Zondeki, J Anyon, L Daggett.

CAPTION(S):

Boyd Rankin could be out of cricket for three to six months after surgery
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 26, 2008
Words:1124
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