November 19, 2015

LONDON (AP) Ian Bell was dropped by England for the upcoming cricket tour to South Africa on Thursday after a poor run of form for the test team, potentially spelling the end of the 33-year-old batsman's international career.

The No. 3 batsman has scored only one century since July 2014 - a period spanning 27 innings - and has looked short of confidence.

''I'm absolutely gutted not to be selected for the tour to SA,'' Bell posted on Twitter. ''I certainly feel I could have contributed out there & have been working tirelessly 2 get into the best possible condition for the tour.

''I'm going2enjoy a winter break with my family for the 1st time in 11yrs and come back determined to win my place back.''

Bell has scored 7,727 runs in 118 tests and hit 22 centuries. He has recently struggled to hit the heights of 2009-11 and the Ashes tour of 2013, when he was a prolific member of the top order.

''Ian Bell has been a huge contributor to English cricket for many years, so it was a very difficult decision to leave someone out of that experience, particularly for a tour of South Africa,'' national selector James Whitaker said. ''But we just felt that over the last seven or eight months his form had dipped and it was time to take a break.''

Bell hinted in August, after England regained the Ashes, that he might be ready to retire from international cricket but decided to carry on playing tests.

Legspinner Adil Rashid was also dropped for a tour that favors pace bowlers, while pace bowlers Mark Wood (left ankle) and Steven Finn (left foot) were ruled out through injury.

There were recalls for batsmen Nick Compton and Gary Ballance for the four-test series against the world's top-ranked team, beginning with the first test in Durban starting on Dec. 26.

Compton, who has nine caps, hasn't played since May 2013, and Ballance was dropped during the Ashes this year.

Left-arm seamer Mark Footitt and opener Alex Hales, both uncapped at test level, were included. Hales could be given the chance to open alongside captain Alastair Cook after Moeen Ali failed to impress in that role in the recent series loss to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.


England squad: Alastair Cook (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Nick Compton, Mark Footitt, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Samit Patel, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, Chris Woakes.

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