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Ian Bell is keen to regain his place after England axe

By David Clough

England have dropped five-time Ashes winner Ian Bell for the tour of South Africa but insist he can still battle his way back into their future Test plans - exactly what he intends to do.

Bell, 33, was a surprise omission from a 16-man list announced yesterday to travel south next month to take on the World's No.1 Test team.

In his absence, Gary Ballance and Nick Compton return and appear set to vie for the No.3 position Bell has vacated.

England's selectors have included uncapped left-armer Mark Footitt, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan to contend for the role of third seamer. Steven Finn and Mark Wood, who is set to have surgery on his chronic ankle impingement next week, are both unavailable because of injury.

England also sprang a surprise by leaving out leg-spinner Adil Rashid. He will go to Australia instead to play in the 20-over Big Bash competition.

National selector James Whitaker explained the decision to drop Bell was a very difficult one, and was at pains to add this is not necessarily the end of his international career.

Whitaker said: "Ian has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future.

"It was clearly a difficult decision. But he has struggled for runs in recent series, and we felt it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight."

Bell responded to his omission by confirming on Twitter that he is determined to regain his place.

He wrote: "I'm gutted not to be selected. I feel I could have contributed and have been working tirelessly to get into the best possible condition for the tour.

"I'll enjoy a winter break with my family and come back determined to win my place back."

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