Bell stars as Warwickshire near safety
Warwickshire 303 v Hampshire 218
Ian Bell smashed a superb century as Warwickshire batted themselves ever closer to County Championship Division One safety at The Rose Bowl. Resuming overnight on 29 without loss, openers Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood added just ten more runs before both departed, falling lbw to Simon Jones and James Tomlinson respectively.
That brought Bell and first-innings wicket-taking hero Darren Maddy together at the crease, and they combined to flay Hampshire's bowlers to all parts. Bell looked every inch a batsman bound for the plane for Australia this winter, as he cut and drove powerfully to race to his half-century.
Maddy also looked fluent as he attacked Hampshire's bowling, but with the pair well set and their partnership approaching a century, Maddy was bowled as Danny Briggs (3 for 100) spun one past his defences and bowled him. Former England international Jim Troughton was next to depart, snared by a decent Michael Carberry catch off the bowling of the impressive Simon Jones (4 for 60).
With Warwickshire edging closer to securing more batting bonus points, Bell opened his shoulders and moved rapidly through the 80s and 90s. He finally went to three figures with an edge through the slips before celebrating with gusto.
But with a huge score on the horizon as Hampshire's bowlers grew increasingly frustrated and tired, Bell gave his wicket away, edging Jones behind for 104. Richard Johnson swiftly followed Bell back to the pavilion as Warwickshire's innings spluttered to 227 for 6 but a fine counter-attacking knock from Rikki Clarke wrestled the initiative back for the Bears.
Clarke, in tandem with Keith Barker, dragged Warwickshire past 250 with some clean hitting and good running between the wickets. But both fell with the score on 264, Clarke (52) edging James Tomlinson before Barker clipped left-arm spinner Briggs to Dominic Cork for 21.
Former Hampshire spinner Imran Tahir smashed his way to a rapid 20 from 15 balls but fell with Warwickshire six runs short of 300 in the fast- descending Rose Bowl gloom. With the light threatening to fade beyond a reasonable playing level, there was just time for Andrew Miller to drag the Bears beyond 300 before holing out to Liam Dawson.
The wicket brought the innings to a close but as Hampshire's batsmen readied themselves for their second innings, the umpires finally called time on the day's play as darkness descended on the Rose Bowl.