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January 2, 2007
Ian Bell made his fourth half-century in nine innings this series, but once again failed to go on to a hundred, as England were made to struggle for their runs on the first day of the fifth Test at Sydney. He fell for 71 to Glenn McGrath, as England reached 4 for 234 on a weather-shortened day.
"It has been a little bit frustrating," admitted Bell afterwards, "but today I got a pretty decent delivery so I can't grumble. McGrath and [Stuart] Clark bowled exceptionally today, and generally as a unit they put the ball in really good areas. It was really difficult out there."
On a pitch kept lively by early-morning rain and an overcast evening, run-scoring was no easy task. "The wicket had enough in it all day, and as a batter there was always a delivery that just beat the bat," added Bell. "[Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood] did well to bat through the last hour and get us into a decent position."
For Bell, it was another mini-milestone on the road to becoming a fully-fledged international cricketer, and he felt afterwards that he had improved "unbelievably" from the wide-eyed rookie who had made seven single-figure scores in ten innings in 2005, saying: "I can't really compare myself to what I was last time."
Even so, it was McGrath once again who accounted for him, for the fifth time in eight Tests. "It's just a matter of patience really," said Bell. "I know what he's trying to do to me. The ball that got me out was his delivery, the one he wants to bowl to me the majority of the time. He's always trying to get my outside-edge or [bowl me] through the gate.
"There was not a lot to hit out there," he added. "It's easy to say we weren't scoring at a great rate, but unless the ball was right under your nose you couldn't drive a lot. There was more bounce here than at Melbourne so leaving is easier, and a lot of balls you had to let go." Though he was tempted to adopt Kevin Pietersen's approach of disrupting the bowlers' lengths, he added: "That's not in my game as much as KP's."
Nor does Bell enjoy the verbals quite as much either. "I don't try and say anything to Warne at all," he admitted. "He's always going to have the last word in the way that bowlers do, by getting you out. But I enjoyed it out there, and I can take some positives from it. At times it wasn't too pretty but sometimes you're going to get runs when they don't look great.
"This is an important game for England," Bell added. "We don't want to go down 5-0. We are taking every game very seriously in the run-up to the next Ashes."
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