Bell's toil for county earns Test recall after Thorpe injury

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The Independent Online

Ian Bell looks set to make his England debut at The Oval on Thursday following his selection in the 13-man squad for this summer's fourth and final Test.

Ian Bell looks set to make his England debut at The Oval on Thursday following his selection in the 13-man squad for this summer's fourth and final Test. The Warwickshire batsman will have to wait until Graham Thorpe has a fitness test on the finger he fractured at Old Trafford on Sunday but the sight of Andrew Flintoff coming in to bat before England's number five yesterday suggests the Surrey batsman is struggling.

"Graham Thorpe has been retained in the squad for The Oval but his finger injury makes him doubtful," explained David Graveney, the chairman of selectors. "We will continue to monitor his fitness over the next 48 hours. Mark Butcher and Paul Collingwood are both unavailable due to injury so we have decided to add Ian Bell to the squad."

Bell fully deserves this opportunity after a wonderful summer with his county. The 22-year-old is currently the third-highest run-scorer in first-class cricket - after Mark Ramprakash and Robert Key - with 1,455 runs at the impressive average of 80.83.

This is not the first time that Bell has been selected in an England squad. The diminutive right-hander joined England in New Zealand in 2001-02 where he acted as cover for Mark Butcher and then again in the summer when Nasser Hussain's side took on Sri Lanka. But on each occasion Bell was overlooked.

This setback had an adverse effect on Bell who had two poor summers. This run of form led to the Warwickshire coach, John Inverarity, recommending that he go and play grade cricket in Perth, Western Australia.

Here Bell worked on his technique and tightened up his game. And the results have been spectacular. Bell has scored six hundreds this summer, including a career best unbeaten 262 against Sussex at Horsham. He is currently in excellent touch having scored four hundreds and a 96 not out in his last five innings.

Gareth Batty misses out but the remainder of the squad is unchanged.

England Squad (Fourth Test v West Indies, Thursday, The Oval): M P Vaughan (capt), J M Anderson, I R Bell, A Flintoff, A F Giles, S J Harmison, M J Hoggard, G O Jones, S P Jones, R W T Key, A J Strauss, G P Thorpe, M E Trescothick.

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