Cook: Tough to leave Bell out of SA tour

Alastair Cook admits that it was a tough decision to leave batsman Ian Bell out of England’s squad for the upcoming four-match Test series against South Africa, starting on Boxing Day.

The 33 year-old Bell, who has 118 Test caps, was left out of the touring party after going on a lean trot with the bat this year with Gary Ballance returning to the squad along with Nick Compton.

The right-handed Bell has scored 7727 runs in the longest format of the game at an average of 42.69, including 22 centuries and 46 fifties.

Cook said: “I sat in on that selection meeting, it was a fairly long one when you are talking about a player of Ian’s class and experience.

“We will miss his experience but he would be the first to admit he hasn’t quite scored the runs over the last couple of years.

“But certainly you might see him score them again. It’s a weird thing, missing a tour might do him the world of good.

“He’s been on pretty much every tour since 2000, whether it’s with England Under-19s, the Lions or the full side. So a bit of time away from the game might do him the world of good.”

The England skipper admitted that the Three Lions are still looking for answers regarding their batting line-up and hopes that Compton and Balance can grab their chance.

Cook continued: “We haven’t quite got a settled top seven, there’s no doubt about that.

“But with Gary [Ballance] coming back, and Nick [Compton] coming back, they’ve had a taste of it before, and it’s a real opportunity for people to stake their claim.”

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