Ian Bell was thrilled to lead Warwickshire to glory in the Royal London Cup last September in his first season as club captain – but believes his team can still improve further in the format.

The Bears’ 50-over cricket just got better and better last season as they finished second in Group A before powering past Essex and Somerset in the knockout stage and outclassing Surrey in the final at Lord’s.

Bell’s side shone in all departments in the longer limited-overs format and they can’t wait to begin their defence of the title away to Northants Steelbacks on April 27.

That game will launch a new structure to the Royal London Cup in 2017 with all eight group matches falling in a self-contained block between April 27 and May 14, leading to the knockout games in mid-June and the final on July 1.

And Bell believes the competition’s rescheduling will be better for players and spectators alike.

“Having those games in a block will give us as players that much more opportunity to prepare,” he said. “It will give a chance for everybody to focus on one type of cricket for the bowlers to get rested so the standard will stay nice and high.

“With all the group games coming together the players will be able to hone in on the relevant skills. For the supporters it will be great too because hopefully we can play some really good cricket for them and also it’s a lot tidier for spectators having the games in a block rather than spread out.

“We just want to keep building on what we achieved in the Royal London Cup last year. We peaked at the right time with a great performance in the final which was a wonderful day, on the field and also off it with the supporters generating such a fantastic atmosphere.

“We had started the competition with a harsh reality at Nottinghamshire when they got 400 and we got 370 but after that we started to hit our straps.

“We played really good cricket and we love playing at Edgbaston where we put in some really strong performances, especially in the knockout stage. “We are really confident in the 50-over format. It suits our style if cricket.”

The challenge for Bell and his team in 2017 is to maintain the standard in 50-over cricket and match it in the other two formats.

“We were one of only three teams to win a trophy last year yet it still didn’t feel like a great season for us which shows the expectations at the club,” he said. “In 2017 we want to start the season well and maintain it and a strong 50-over group phase would be a great way to kick-start the campaign into the other formats.”

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