England drop Ian Bell and recall Nick Compton for South Africa tour

Ian Bell
Bell has scored only one Test century since July 2014

Batsman Ian Bell has been dropped from England's Test squad for the tour of South Africa, which starts in December.

The five-time Ashes winner, 33, who has played 118 Tests, has not scored a century in 23 innings.

Batsmen Nick Compton and Gary Ballance are recalled, uncapped pace bowler Mark Footitt and spinner Samit Patel are included and Adil Rashid is left out.

Bell, 33, said he was "absolutely gutted" to miss out, but is "determined" to win his place back.

The tour begins on 15 December, with the first Test on 26 December.

England, who start with a warm-up game against a South African Invitational XI, will play four Tests, five one-day internationals and two Twenty20s.

South Africa are the top-ranked Test side in the world.

Ian Bell's Test career

Is this the end of Bell's England career?

Only two England players in history have won more Test caps than Bell, who is eighth on their all-time run-scoring list.external-link

Although he was the third highest run scorer in the recent 2-0 Test series defeat by Pakistan, he averages 25.95 in 13 matches in 2015, compared to a career average of 42.69.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said: "Given South Africa's status it's a big call to drop Ian Bell, but he's scored only two hundreds in his last 28 Tests.

Mark Boucher on Twitter
The decision to drop Bell surprised former South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher

"He confirmed to England managing director Andrew Strauss yesterday that he wishes to fight for his place, but at 33 it seems more likely that his career is now over."

Bell said:external-link "I certainly feel I could have contributed out there and have been working tirelessly to get into the best possible condition for the tour.

"I'm going to enjoy a winter break with my family for the first time in 11 years."

National selector James Whitaker said: "It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight."

England in South Africa 2015-16
26-30 Dec: 1st Test, Durban14-18 Jan: 3rd Test, Johannesburg
2-6 Jan: 2nd Test, Cape Town22-26 Jan: 4th Test, Centurion
Five talking points on England's Test squad for South Africa

Compton and Ballance back in

Middlesex's Compton, 32, who scored two centuries in nine Tests before being dropped in 2013, has been named in a 16-man squad alongside Yorkshire left-hander Ballance.

Ballance, 25, averages 47.76 in 15 Tests but was dropped during this summer's Ashes win over Australia.

All-rounder Ben Stokes has been passed fit following a collarbone injury sustained in the final Test against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates this month.

However, pace bowlers Mark Wood and Steven Finn are unavailable with ankle and foot injuries respectively.

Graeme Smith on Twitter
Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith, who will be part of the BBC Test Match Special commentary team for the Test series, criticised Gary Ballance's recall

New Surrey signing Footitt, 29, who featured in England's Ashes squad this summer, has been called up, while Chris Woakes replaces fellow seamer Liam Plunkett.

"I'm over the moon I've been picked," Footitt told BBC Radio 5 live.

"It's a massive honour to be selected. Hopefully if I do get the nod I can do my country proud."

Uncapped opening batsman Alex Hales, an unused member of the Test squad against Pakistan, keeps his place alongside left-arm spinner Patel.

Patel, 30, is preferred to 27-year-old leg-spinner Rashid, who is instead likely to play in the Big Bash League, Australia's domestic Twenty20 competition.

Whitaker said: "Adil Rashid showed plenty of promise in the UAE but the conditions in South Africa make the likelihood of playing two spinners extremely remote."

England Test squad: Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire, wk), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wk), Nick Compton (Middlesex), Mark Footitt (Surrey), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), James Taylor (Nottinghamshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).

Nick Compton
Nick Compton scored 1,123 County Championship runs at an average of 38.72 this year

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