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Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 13:47 UK

Bell to bat at four for England

Third Ashes Test, Edgbaston: England v Australia
Dates: Thursday, 30 July to Monday, 3 August Start time: 1100 BST
Coverage: Live Test Match Special commentary (from 1025 BST on day one, 1045 BST on remaining days) on BBC Radio 4 LW, 5 Live sports extra, the Red Button and BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobile phones. Also live on Sky Sports.

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Great time to play for England - Bell

Ian Bell will bat in Kevin Pietersen's regular number four position when the third Ashes Test gets under way at Edgbaston on Thursday.

Bell replaces Pietersen in the side after the Hampshire man underwent series-ending Achilles tendon surgery.

"We're fortunate to have Ian waiting in the wings. He's a proven performer and it's a golden opportunity for him," said England captain Andrew Strauss.

England are also "pretty confident" Andrew Flintoff will be fit to play.

Flintoff's persistent knee problems have led him to retire from Test cricket at the end of the Ashes series.

But Strauss reported that England's hero in the 115-run second Test victory has recovered well after his Lord's exploits and is expected to test his knee in the nets on Tuesday.

I had to make sure I was in the best possible form if I got an opportunity

England batsman Ian Bell

"He's absolutely determined to play in these last three Test matches and it will take something pretty dramatic for him not to take the field on Thursday," Strauss said.

If Flintoff can prove his fitness to play at Edgbaston, he will once again line up alongside Bell after the Warwickshire player's return from the wilderness.

Bell was dropped after England lost heavily in Jamaica in February, with the 27-year-old's form beginning to dip during the tour to India at the end of 2008.

The selectors eventually lost patience when his second-innings dismissal in Sabina Park sparked a collapse that resulted in the tourists being dismissed for 51.

Bell is a proven performer - Strauss

But Strauss, speaking at The Oval where it was announced that Brit Insurance would take over from Vodafone as England's team sponsor in January 2010, was keen to put that in the past.

"We have really high hopes that Ian Bell will be a big player in the team moving forward and he will be determined to take his chance," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Bell, who plays much of his county cricket at Edgbaston, added: "When you have played a considerable amount for your country, when you are not there it really hurts," said Bell.

"You miss what you used to do a hell of a lot. You do everything you can to get back into that team. When I got back from the West Indies after the winter tour, I really had to put the Ashes to the back of my mind.

"I had to get the runs in county cricket to give myself a chance to be part of the Ashes and overall I've done that."

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This season Bell has scored 640 in 11 innings for Warwickshire in Division One of the County Championship, although he was dismissed for 7 and 0 in his last match, against Hampshire.

Bell played in the last two Ashes series, but his average of 25.10 in his 10 Tests against Australia is significantly lower than his overall Test average of 40.59.

"It was very tough to go out and perform well in the days of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. He has come back a tougher cricketer," insisted Strauss.

The decision to bring Bell back at four means England will probably keep Ravi Bopara at number three, with Paul Collingwood at five and Matt Prior at six.

"We're excited to be ahead but know that can change very quickly," said Strauss.

"You gain a huge amount of confidence from winning an Ashes Test and there's a good feeling in the squad, but you can't let that become complacency.

"We know what's at the end of the rainbow - if we play three good Tests we could win an Ashes series which as a captain is hugely exciting."



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