County chance for Strauss, Bell

England duo given time to rediscover form ahead of summer Tests

Last Updated: 10/04/12 10:14pm

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England skipper Andrew Strauss and fellow batsman Ian Bell will be given a month of county cricket to prepare for this summer's Test series against the West Indies and South Africa.

The duo endured a tough time with the bat during England's winter tours of Asia, with Strauss' captaincy called into question for the first time during his decorated time in charge after his struggles against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The England and Wales Cricket Board have responded by making both players available for three LV= County Championship fixtures ahead of the first Test against the West Indies, which begins at Lord's on May 17.

While Strauss and Bell will turn out for Middlesex and Warwickshire respectively next week, fellow batsmen Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook will be given time off.

Trott has been given a fortnight's break while Cook, arguably England's best batsman over the past 18 months, is not due to return with Essex until May 2.

Kevin Pietersen, currently on Indian Premier League duty along with Eoin Morgan, will be available for Surrey's Division One match against Worcestershire the week before the Lord's Test.

Bowlers rested

Where England's batsmen will be required to fine-tune their games, the bowlers will be rested after a winter in which their performances were well regarded despite results.

James Anderson and Graeme Swann will remain in cotton wool until May 2 while seamers Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan will only play two of three Championship games.

That decision may have been prompted by the lingering fitness problems over Stuart Broad after the ECB revealed today he would remain out for a further three weeks with the calf injury that forced his early departure from the tour of Sri Lanka.

First Test hopefuls Monty Panesar, Ravi Bopara and Samit Patel are available for all cricket until the Lord's match.

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior could start for Sussex in the tour game against the West Indies starting May 5.

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