MANCHESTER // Ian Bell hoped his vital innings to help England get back on track against Bangladesh yesterday finally shows he can contribute runs when under pressure and puts him in the frame for next year's Ashes series. The Warwickshire batsman has 10 Test centuries to his name, but has a reputation for getting large scores only when matches are already won.
"The situation demanded someone get stuck in and that was more important for me, scoring runs when the team need it," he said. "That's been a criticism of me. It was a tricky day; they made us work very hard for our runs. If I get an opportunity in Australia [for the Ashes series in January and February] it shows I can dig in. "There's a lot of cricket still to come before then, but the more I can keep scoring the better for me and the team."
Bell's scoring was composed and unspectacular, with the ball crossing the boundary just 10 times - once for a six. His 87 runs off 171 balls left England on 275 for five by the time bad light stopped play. It meant a positive finish to the day for England, whose batsmen had struggled as the wicket was not as fast as expected and provided more turn than normal on a first day. Kevin Pietersen in particular was left to reflect on a missed opportunity for a Test hundred.
His last century was against the West Indies in Port of Spain last March, he fell on 99 against Bangladesh in Chittagong this March and he will have few better opportunities to do so again than yesterday. He appeared set to go on and post a high score when he came out in an aggressive mood after lunch. His 42 runs from 37 balls after the break, including the first of the day's two six hits, helped England get back on track after losing three wickets in the morning.
But he came unstuck when he was fooled by the turn from Shakib al Hasan while well down the crease, leaving Mushfiqur Rahim, the wicketkeeper, with the easiest of stumpings. Shafiul Islam and Abdul Razzak were brought into the side as Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh coach, sought to improve on what he described as horrendous bowling in the first Test at Lord's last weekend. They did not disappoint. Andrew Strauss fell for 21 in the ninth over when he pushed the ball rather half-heartedly to Imrul Kayes at second slip.
Jonathan Trott, who plundered a double century at Lord's, was walking back to the pavilion after just nine minutes, fooled by a slower ball from Shaiful. Razzak was not to be left behind, claiming the scalp of Cook - edged to Junaid Siddique - with his first ball of the series. At lunch England were 92 for three. Pietersen got England back on track in typically destructive style as he completed his 17th Test half-century shortly after lunch but, in keeping with the disjointed feel of the opening session, he fell just when his scoring looked likely to push England towards the high total they would have expected to achieve.
Pietersen's departure on 64 brought Eoin Morgan to the middle, and along with Bell he dug in to steady England. It took a brilliant one-handed catch from Jahurul Islam off the bowling of Shahadat Hossain to dismiss Morgan. Matt Prior survived an appeal for lbw from Razzak that looked like it should have been given, meaning he and Bell will start at the crease today. England had made the one expected change to their side, with Ajmal Shahzad getting the nod over Ryan Sidebottom to replace the injured Tim Bresnan.
With Steven Finn playing in only his fourth Test, it leaves an inexperienced set of bowlers. Graeme Swann has played in 19 while Jimmy Anderson, the most experienced, has 47 to his name. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org