Bell oozes class before Nottinghamshire crumble
Nottinghamshire 43 for 6 (Wright 3-7) trail Warwickshire 263 (Bell 122, Porterfield 56, Carter 5-55) by 220 runs
The pleasures of watching cricket come in many shades and this was a day that could be enjoyed for high quality and high farce, although possibly not if your team happens to be Nottinghamshire.
The quality came from Ian Bell, whose 122 was witnessed, at least at various stages of it, by not one but three England selectors, not that his place in the side can be in any doubt. Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire's director of cricket, is wearing two hats for the first time, having been co-opted to the selection panel last week. James Whitaker, the head honcho, was also here, as was Peter Moores, taking in his first game since he resumed his role as head coach.
The farce was saved for last, a run-out muddle of the classic ingredients, with Luke Fletcher, the nightwatchman, going for a second run that his partner, Samit Patel, declined and both ending up at the same end before Fletcher, with an angry swish of the bat, accepted his fate, looked daggers at a team-mate by now contemplating the turf in front of him and trudged off.
It might have provoked laughter on the home balcony had it not left Nottinghamshire 43 for 6, although the real damage had been done in the overs before as Chris Wright and Keith Barker unleashed their well-honed skills on a pitch that was offering just enough movement and variable bounce to make batting a hazardous business all day.
Wright's eight-over opening spell in the evening session yielded three wickets for seven runs, the second aided by a superb slip catch by Bell to remove Steven Mullaney before Michael Lumb left one with a flourish facing Barker, only to find his off stump missing. James Taylor, who had more reason than Bell to make a memorable impression, hit one cracking leg-side boundary off Barker but was then leg before trying to work one off Wright, at which point Nottinghamshire were 17 for 4.
After momentary calm, Riki Wessels was trapped in front by a ball from Oliver Hannon-Dalby that perhaps kept a little low before the run-out chaos brought the day to a close. Nottinghamshire are not making the heavy roller available and after 16 wickets on the opening it would seem unlikely that this contest lasts beyond Wednesday.
All of which provides a context that makes Bell's performance quite special. It was not flawless. Twice in the early stages, on 7 and then 15, he was close to being out caught at midwicket, the ball each time just failing to carry to Phil Jaques. "Perfectly judged," Bell said afterwards, tongue firmly in cheek.
Later, Mullaney was convinced he had him leg before, on 78, and risked incurring the displeasure of the umpires by lingering at the end of his followthrough, making his feelings plain to the batsman.
It is true also that he benefited from the pitch being cut well across on the Bridgford Road side of the square, bringing the boundary in front of the new stand close enough for a firm push or a well-timed clip to have a chance of getting four. Of Bell's runs, 75% were scored on that side of the ground, including 16 of his 18 fours and both sixes, the second of which, off Andy Carter, was smacked over cover.
If Bell stood out, honourable mention should be made too of William Porterfield, who has been given the chance to make a belated impression in four-day cricket in place of the stricken Jonathan Trott and is doing well so far. He made 77 against Lancashire last week and looked set to go on beyond his 56 today when he checked his shot after Mullaney, the fifth seamer, had introduced a change in pace and gave a simple return catch.
Peter Siddle, making his county debut on a ground where he took eight wickets in the Ashes Test last summer, claimed his first Nottinghamshire wicket at the end of his 11th over but the best of the home side's bowlers was Carter, tall and with good pace, who took his chance in the continued absence of Andre Adams to claim his first five-wicket haul for Nottinghamshire.