Cricket: Bell ready to sign for Warwickshire

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The Independent Online
WARWICKSHIRE HAVE offered the England Under-19 batsman Ian Bell a two-year full-time contract.

The 17-year-old emerged as the star of the England Under-19 tour of New Zealand during the winter and Warwickshire have moved swiftly to head off interest from other counties. Bell intends to continue his A-level studies at Princethorpe College, near Leamington, but cricket will take priority. Bell has played for Warwickshire teams since he was nine years old and, although he was not even registered when he went to New Zealand, he is certain to commit himself to his native county.

Meanwhile, the second day of Warwickshire's County Championship match against Somerset at Edgbaston was washed out yesterday. Warwickshire had been given permission by the England and Wales Cricket Board to use the giant Brumbella pitch cover but Somerset objected.

New regulations prevent the use of flat covers but Warwickshire were given special dispensation by John Carr, the England and Wales Cricket Board's cricket operations manager, to use it following concerns that further rain might prevent any more play in the game.

But Somerset were worried the pitch might sweat under the plastic sheeting so Warwickshire had to use conventional covering which left more than half the square exposed to the elements. Twenty-eight inches of rain fell on Edgbaston during the winter, twice the average, and with more rain forecast prospects for a prompt start today looked bleak.

The other four County Championship games - at Derby, Leicester, Lord's and Worcester - were washed out yesterday without a ball being bowled.