England v Bangladesh, 2nd Test, Chester-le-Street, 2nd day June 4, 2005

Bell relieved to reach first Test century

Ian Bell: 'I'd like to do the same against Australia' © Getty Images
Ian Bell became the first English cricketer in 70 years to score 100 runs before lunch, but his demeanour at the close of play was as muted as his celebrations, as England just missed out on a rare two-day Test victory. Had they managed to wheedle out the last two Bangladeshi wickets, England would have achieved the feat for the tenth time in their history, and for the first time since beating West Indies at Headingley in 2000.

"To get so close is a little disappointing," admitted Bell. "I thought all four seamers were exceptional on the first morning, but the pitch was a little easier today, so they were able to handle the guys better this time." Bell had given England every chance of a quick win by adding 105 runs to his overnight 57, the best in a morning session since Les Ames put South Africa to the sword at The Oval in 1935. But he could have no complaints personally, after cementing his place for the first Test against Australia at Lord's next month.

"I had a few thoughts about a century last night so it was a bit of relief when it came," added Bell, who was under no illusions as to the strength of the attack he had just clobbered "I'd like to do the same against Australia, although I don't believe that Bangladesh are as strong as a county side, so I'm sure there are tougher times to come.

"I won't be sitting around worrying though," Bell added. "There are a lot of worse things I could be doing than testing myself against the best in the world. I'll just play with a smile on my face, take every game as it comes."

If Bell was merely satisfied, then the mood in the Bangladeshi dressing-room was one of relief tinged with defiance, as they succeeded in batting out the day, en route to their highest total in Tests against England. Javed Omar led the way with his fourth responsible knock of the series, and was well supported by hard-hitting cameos from Habibul Bashar and Aftab Ahmed.

"We've struggled for the last two or three innings," admitted Omar. "We've not done as well as we'd been hoping, but today we started well and changed our tactics with Bashar coming in at No. 5. The coach told us to go out and enjoy ourselves and play positively, and it paid off. Most of our batsmen, like Aftab and Bashar, are strokemakers, so scoring runs is their natural game."

Omar has been the one redeeming feature of Bangladesh's batting in this series, reaching double-figures in all four innings. "I've been confident and focussed," he admitted, "but I've not scored big runs. That's bad for the team and it's bad for me. I needed to do it for longer, because what's good for my country is good for me."

Omar refused to comment on the controversial dismissal of his opening partner, Nafees Iqbal, who was adjudged caught behind by Geraint Jones, although it is understood that the Bangladeshis are to lodge a complaint. But, that sour note aside, it was a better day all round, and Omar was hopeful that the experience would stand them in good stead for the one-dayers.

"That was an important day for Bangladesh," he said. "We've been in bad shape in the Tests, so the confidence is very important for one-dayers. We are not worried, the white-ball game is a different game, and when the team plays well, the mood is positive back at the hotel."

Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo