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England supply Bell with a ringing endorsement.

IAN Bell has been given a vote of confidence for next week's third Ashes Test with England not inclined to select spare batting cover in their squad.

Warwickshire batsman Bell was axed following defeat to West Indies in Jamaica last February, but was named in the squads for both matches of the series to date and had 640 runs in his seven County Championship matches prior to this round's two failures against Hampshire.

The 27-year-old was identified as the next man in line for the batting spots by England coach Andy Flower in the aftermath of the second Test victory at Lord's, and before Kevin Pietersen was ruled out of the remainder of the campaign.

National selector Geoff Miller confirmed that the 13-man squad for Edgbaston, which will be revealed tomorrow, includes only extra bowling options, a decision which will allow Bell to prepare for an international return on his home ground without a rival to distract him.

"There are no injury problems as such, so we probably won't need to do that," Miller said of the possibility of adding extra back-up.

"We had question marks to cover in the last squad, but I don't foresee needing to do that here.

"If we needed to draft someone in for any reason, we know who we would be looking at and have provision to do that at short notice."

Lord's man-of-the-match An-drewFlintofremains intent on getting through his final series in Test cricket, although he has experienced pain in his troublesome right knee since his Monday morning heroics.

He will be checked by the medical staff before the first net session in Birmingham next Tuesday.

His close friend Steve Harmison was named on standby for the Lord's match due to their similar velocity with the ball and will compete for a place at Edgbaston along with left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.

With wet weather scuppering pitch preparation and leaving the surface "like jelly", according to groundsman Steve Rouse, no-one can forecast what to expect as Australia try to force their way back into the campaign.

Traditionally, under-prepared pitches encourage teams to reinforce their batting, but with Flintoff at seven, Stuart Broad at eight and Graeme Swann at nine, England appear comfortable.

"We have all bases covered so that, whatever conditions we turn up to, we have players to complement them," Miller said.

"There is a lot of time and a lot of weather between now and then, and we will keep monitoring it."

There was another shot across the bows for Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel yesterday, meanwhile, after he was completely overlooked for England's provisional 30-man squad for September's Champions Trophy.

Patel, 24, was de-selected from England's one-day tour of West Indies earlier this year due to a lack of discipline on fitness, and fell foul of the same problem at the start of the summer after showing no discernible improvement. Probable Test squad: A Strauss (c), A Cook, R Bopara, I Bell, P Collingwood, M Prior (wkt), A Flintoff, S Broad, G Swann, J Anderson, G Onions, S Harmison, M Panesar.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 25, 2009
Words:509
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