England retain confidence in Bell

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The Independent Online

England retain full confidence in their extra batsman Ian Bell, despite his double failure in the first Test.

Bell could muster only seven runs in two attempts in the desperate draw at Centurion, where he just got the nod to play ahead of either an all-rounder or a fifth specialist bowler.

But in his previous Test at The Oval, he made a crucial first-innings 72 from number three as England clinched the Ashes - and was also in form during a stint with the Performance Programme squad recently.

England coach Andy Flower must decide whether Bell, seamer Ryan Sidebottom or an all-round option such as Luke Wright or Liam Plunkett is the best selection for the second Test against South Africa at Kingsmead on Boxing Day.

He said: "Belly got some runs in the pre-tour games, and I think he's feeling quite confident about the way he's playing.

"He's just had a tough Test match. He made a misjudgment in the first innings and then got 'nicked off' in the second.

"But he's a high quality player, and we're backing him. I think he'll be fine."

England are feeling fine collectively too, after scraping a stalemate in the opening match of a four-Test series.

"Of course, we're relieved - after losing those wickets to the last new ball - to get out of it with a draw," added Flower.

"But it was a superb Test match and a great advert for the game.

"We always knew that second new ball was going to be a very tough period.

"We obviously didn't think we'd lose that many wickets that quickly - but we did well to fight back and hang on in the end."