England drop Ian Bell to bring curtain down on 2005 Ashes
Batsman, who was last remaining member of the 2005 team, had not scored a century in 24 innings
Ian Bell has been left out of the England squad to tour South Africa and it appears that the 33-year-old's international cricket career could be at an end after 11 years.
After a series of below-par performances Bell has been omitted while Gary Ballance and Nick Compton have been recalled and are likely to compete for the vacant number three slot.
Bell 33, who has played 118 Tests and hit 22 hundreds, scored a solitary 50 during the recent Test series defeat to Pakistan in the UAE and made three half-centuries during the Ashes, but he has not scored a century since his 143 against West Indies in Antigua in April.
Bell was the only remaining member of the team who played in the 2005 Ashes, and his omission means that only three of the side that were ranked number one in the world four years ago are still playing for England – Alastair Cook, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
The Warwickshire batsman retired from one-day cricket earlier this year in order to concentrate on Test cricket. Today he expressed his disappointment on Twitter and vowed to win his place back next summer.
Although England's recent track record with openers and top order batsmen means that there could be a vacancy in the team next summer, Bell's prospects look bleak. "An increasing focus on youth in all formats threatens to leave Bell cast out permanently, which would bring down the curtain on England’s third-highest Test century maker of all time," says Jonathan Liew of the Daily Telegraph. "Only Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook have scored more than Bell's 22 Test hundreds."
Captain Alastair Cook is likely to be joined by his eighth opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss, with Alex Hales expected to take over from Moeen Ali at the top of the order. However, Compton, who opened alongside Cook in nine tests before he was dropped in 2013, could also challenge. Ballance, who was dropped from the side during the Ashes, will hope to reclaim the number three slot.
Elsewhere, uncapped fast bowler Mark Footitt is included after Steven Finn and Mark Woods were forced to withdraw from injury, and leg spinner Adil Rashid, who had a moxed series against Pakistan, is also overlooked for the fast piches of South Africa. Moeen and Samit Patel are the two spinners in the squad.