Bell boost for England
Batsman overcomes illness in time for third Test
Last Updated: 02/02/12 2:19pm
Ian Bell recovered from a stomach upset and was able to practise with his England team-mates on Thursday as they completed their preparations for the third Test against Pakistan.
England, the top-ranked Test side in the world, have already surrendered the three-match series after heavy defeats in the first two games.
And with the possibility of a whitewash looming in the final Test, which starts on Friday, it was a further blow to morale to learn that Bell had succumbed to the illness which had previously affected Jonathan Trott and Ravi Bopara.
The Warwickshire batsman missed Wednesday's practice session, but England are confident he will be in rude health again in time to face Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
"Bell was laid low yesterday but he's back practising today," said England captain Andrew Strauss.
Stomach problems are an occupational hazard for England teams in the Asian subcontinent, and appear to be just as much of an issue in the Middle East.
"It's one of those things that happens on a different tour of a different country, different foods and everything," Strauss added.
"You've got to make the best of the situation and try and avoid it happening to you. The other 10 have to step up for 24 hours, until they get better."
Trial by spin
Bell is likely to retain his place in England's misfiring batting line-up, which has mustered 200 only once in four attempts in the face of Pakistan's spinners.
Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman have shared 29 of the 40 English wickets to have fallen, with the tourists' middle order a particular area of concern.
Kevin Pietersen, Bell and Eoin Morgan - numbers four to six - have thus far failed to come to terms with conditions, scoring 94 runs in their combined 12 innings.
Bopara, who has a mixed record in his 12 Tests, is the spare batsman in England's squad and could come in for Morgan.
Strauss, another to have struggled, is optimistic of a turnaround at the same venue his team crashed to a 10-wicket defeat in the series opener.
"That's one of the crucial things about playing spin, you have to adapt your game according to the surfaces you play on. I am very optimistic, you'll see people a bit clearer in what their game plan is and how they are looking to play, which is a good starting point," he said.
"These conditions are slightly different, so it's more about adapting your game to the conditions than going right back to square one and saying 'right, I need to change everything'. That's a dangerous route to go down.
"It's a setback (being 2-0 down) in the sense that we didn't want it to happen, and we didn't want to lose a series. But that's gone, finished - and in some ways, maybe it's a good lesson for us that if you're five per cent off your game against the majority of sides you're going to come unstuck.
"We desperately want to avoid losing the series 3-0; we desperately want to come back and show we're better than we have shown so far in the series. I think there's a feeling among the whole squad that we can and should come back and do that."
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq has promised no let-up as his side chase their first clean sweep since a 2003 home series against Bangladesh.
"It will be a big achievement for the team (winning 3-0)," he said.
"The way the team is performing with consistency, if we play well like we did in the first two games good results will come but we will not take that extra pressure (of chasing a clean sweep)."
Pakistan could change a winning team with left-arm seamer Wahab Riaz in contention to replace paceman Junaid Khan, who bowled only eight overs in the second Test.
"I am a firm believer in the balance of the team because the first priority is to win and I think we will go with whatever is the best combination for the team," said Misbah, who also predicted the Dubai pitch will help batsmen more than in the first Test.