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England get Ashes boost with Bell likely to play

india Updated: Nov 22, 2006 15:45 IST
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England received a welcome boost on the eve of the first Ashes test when injured batsman Ian Bell completed a net session to boost his chances of selection.

The in-form Bell, who scored a century in England's last warm-up match against South Australia at the weekend, had been in danger of missing the opening test after he was struck on the wrist by team mate James Anderson during batting practice on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital for scans which cleared him of any breaks and was able to complete a full net session on Wednesday.

Bell is expected to be promoted up the order to bat at number three after opener Marcus Trescothick returned home last week.

England skipper Andrew Flintoff said the tourists would wait until tomorrow before finalising their team although every position seems settled except the choice of spinner.

Ashley Giles and Monty Panesar are both vying for the job and Flintoff said it would be a difficult decision choosing between them.

"It's a close call," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

"It's something that me and the coach (Duncan Fletcher) will speak about this afternoon and, as we always do, we'll finalise the 11 before the toss tomorrow."

Shock win

The series is one of the most eagerly-anticipated in Ashes history after England's shock win at home last year and both Flintoff and his Australian counterpart Ricky Ponting said they could not wait for the match to start.

"The hype surrounding this series has been going for ages," Flintoff said.

"Myself and the team just want to get started.

"It's nice that it has just come to an end and we can get out on the pitch and have a bat and have a bowl."

Australia will also wait until tomorrow before finalising their starting 11 after fast bowler Shaun Tait was released from the 13-man squad leaving Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson fighting for the last spot.

"The excitement is starting to overflow on everybody," Ponting said.

"It's pretty important we keep a lid on that on Thrusday and not get too carried away with things and try to make things happen too quickly in the game.

"If you get too excited you're going to go into the game tired, you'll wear yourself out from the preparation and hype over the last couple of days.

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