Ian Bell: Warwickshire skipper preparing for 'toughest' County Championship season

Ian Bell
Ian Bell has scored 17,687 first-class runs and hit 50 centuries

Warwickshire captain Ian Bell says County Championship Division One will be the most competitive ever this summer following the promotion of Lancashire and Surrey.

The 33-year-old batsman lost his England place ahead of last winter's tour to South Africa and is set to lead the Bears for the whole summer.

"Division One, this year, will be the toughest that it's ever been," he said.external-link

"The two counties that have come up, with Test Match grounds, look strong."

Bell has set his sights on regaining his England place as soon as possible, but is looking forward to playing a big part for the county this summer.

"The squads in the first division get stronger every year. The standard is very high," he said.

"I am very excited about the season. There is a lot of cricket ahead and a lot of hard work ahead and no doubt there will be ups and downs but myself and the guys can't wait for the challenge in front of us."

Big guns all available

Alongside Bell, Warwickshire will also have former England batsman Jonathan Trott and current England all-rounder Chris Woakes at their disposal in the early weeks of the season.

And he believes that could be key to the team making a good start.

"It's the first time for a long time that we will have everybody available for the start of a season - usually we've been without a couple of myself, Trotty and Woakesy," Bell added.

"We've got a strong squad which, injuries permitting, will allow us to rotate our seamers the way Yorkshire have done to such good effect in the last couple of years."

After returning from their pre-season tour of Dubai, Warwickshire continue their preparations for the new season with a two-day friendly against Gloucestershire at Edgbaston on 28 and 29 March.