Ian Bell: Warwickshire batsman hoping to find form ahead of Ashes
Warwickshire's Ian Bell goes into this Sunday's County Championship derby with Worcestershire looking to find top form ahead of this summer's Ashes series.
Bell has made just 55 runs in his last eight Test innings, including a pair against the West Indies in Bridgetown.
But, in his first Championship appearance for the Bears in 13 months, Bell is planning ahead.
"It will be great to play at Worcester and try to get some runs under my belt ahead of the Ashes," he said.
"It has been a busy international schedule lately and we've been pretty much without a break for 18 months. That's great because, as an England player, you always want to be involved, but it is always enjoyable coming back to my county.
"The Warwickshire dressing room is always easy to come back into, even when you've been away for a while because they are a great set of guys."
|Bell still makes time for the Bears|
|Since making his England debut in August 2004, Ian Bell has won 110 Test caps. In that time, he has played in 51 County Championship matches for Warwickshire, hitting 10 centuries.|
Bell has already had one innings back in Bears colours when he responded to being left out of England's one-day squad by making a matchwinning 65-ball 90 against Durham at Chester-le-Street last weekend, the highest individual T20 score for the county.
"It was nice to come back and contribute to a win," he added. "It was great to free up and play a few shots. In a perfect world I would have seen the job through and finished with a hundred not out but I guess if someone had offered me 90 at the start I would have accepted it."
Although Warwickshire have Bell and his former England team-mate Jonathan Trott back in action together again, they are still without their other England regular over the last couple of years, Chris Woakes.
After sending down five overs for Warwickshire's Second XI against Lancashire two weeks ago, he has not bowled since, but the county are still hopeful of having him fit in time for the start of the Ashes on 8 July.
The Bears, fifth in Division One, go into their second Championship derby of the summer 22 points better off than the Pears, largely as a result of a comfortable 181-run win at Edgbaston in early May.
But Worcestershire have since been bolstered by the return of their own England man, Moeen Ali, as well as fellow off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who is expected to make his first appearance in a first-class cricket match since playing two Tests for Pakistan last August.
With a remodelled action after his International Cricket Council ban for having a suspect action, 37-year-old Ajmal, Worcestershire's promotion-winning inspiration a year ago, is now something of an unknown quantity.
But, after an inauspicious return in last Friday night's T20 Blast at Northampton, when his four overs went for 53 runs, his far more economical 1-26 against Nottinghamshire last Sunday showed signs that all he needs to make his mark again is time in the middle.