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Bell feeling confident ahead of season opener

IAN Bell intends his century against Durham MCCU to be "a sign of things to come" as he looks forward to Warwickshire's season which starts at home to Sussex on Friday, writes Brian Halford.

When the weather at last relented for one day to allow the Bears some play in their friendly against the students, Bell took full advantage of some precious time in the middle.

His 100, his 52nd-first-class century, was constructed with all the style and compactness which has adorned his batting throughout his career but deserted him last season. And though a ton against Durham MCCU might not be expected to sit too high on the CV of a man who has scored 22 Test centuries for England, it was a knock that gave the 35-year-old a lot of satisfaction.

"I was very happy with the innings," Bell said. "I just really enjoyed being out in the middle. It was a nice start and hopefully a sign of things to come for me and the club.

"I have trained very hard this winter and found a few different things to do which has been very enjoyable and left me physically in as good a place as I've ever been in my career. I've grafted as hard as I possibly can.

"All the hard fitness work I did up to Christmas was then a great starting point to start getting back into my cricket. I am feeling fresh and excited - and that came into that first game."

Bell's championship figures last season - 596 runs at an average of 25.91 - do no justice to the talent which has brought him 7,727 Test runs. This time round he is eager to bounce back hard and believes a first winter without competitive cricket in almost 20 years was exactly what was required.

"This is my 20th season on the staff and my first winter having not gone anywhere," he said. "I can't have trained any harder and feel like I am hitting the ball nicely, more like the old me. I just feel really fresh and am looking forward to hopefully producing my best cricket over the months ahead."

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