London - There is still a way back into the England side for exiled star batsman Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell said on Thursday.
Newly-appointed England director of cricket Andrew Strauss told Pietersen, in international exile since the team's return from their 5-0 Ashes thrashing last year, that he would not be considered for selection for the upcoming home series with New Zealand and Australia.
Bell, who said Pietersen was "probably the best player I've played with", told a news conference in London: "This has been dragging on for a long time.
"It's a pretty packed middle order right now. But if he (Pietersen) keeps scoring runs maybe there's a position in time."
Strauss, Pietersen's successor as England captain, said a "massive trust issue" prevented the South Africa-born batsman's return, even though he is England's all-time leading run-scorer across all formats.
That appeared to contradict comments from Colin Graves, the incoming England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, that a return was possible if Pietersen scored enough runs in county cricket.
But shortly after Pietersen made an unbeaten triple century for Surrey against Leicestershire on Monday, Strauss told him to forget about playing for England this season.
The news was confirmed by the ECB at Lord's on Tuesday, just as Pietersen was extending his overnight score to 355 not out across London at The Oval.
"Obviously Kevin is a quality player, probably the best player I've ever played with, so he does make any team stronger," said Bell.
"I don't know what's been going on in these meetings, what's been said between Colin Graves and Kevin, and Tom Harrison (the new ECB chief executive) and Kevin and Strauss.
"I played 10 years with Kevin and obviously we both went through highs and lows, won a lot of cricket (matches) together. I enjoyed my time with him. I don't know what the conversations have been going on behind closed doors," added Bell.
"The conversation with Colin Graves, maybe there's a position in time but it's very difficult to get in right now. The middle-order has been pretty good now for a period of time and everyone deserves that opportunity now with an exciting summer ahead.
"I don't know that conversation (with Graves) or how that took place.
"If that did happen and then you get 350, of course you can be a little bit aggrieved, can't you?"