Bell dominates Australia A with unbeaten century
England XI 5 for 335 (Bell 121*, Collingwood 74*) lead Australia A 230 by 105 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Ian Bell sounded an ominous Ashes warning for Australia with a dominant century on a rain-affected second day in Hobart. Paul Collingwood and Alastair Cook also looked in promising touch and posted half-centuries against an Australia A attack that included the Test squad member Steven Smith, who took the brunt of Bell's aggression and finished with 0 for 57 from ten overs.
The only slight concerns for England ahead of next Thursday's first Test surround the form of Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, who are averaging in the low 30s so far on the trip. But Bell quickly focused attention on the positives in the England camp, having come to the crease at a wobbly 5 for 137.
While Ricky Ponting got himself out hooking for 27 in Sydney, where Shane Watson and Simon Katich also struggled on a difficult pitch, Bell was thriving in the cool and damp England-like conditions at Bellerive Oval. He combined with Collingwood (74 not out) for an unbeaten 198-run partnership and finished the day on 121 from 158 balls.
Bell made a conscious decision to attack Smith, an aggressive bowler who likes to give the ball plenty of air, and he advanced to drive Smith over his head for four from his second delivery. That began a string of three consecutive boundaries in Smith's first over, as Bell danced down the pitch and treated the bowler with disdain.
In all, Bell managed eight fours and a six off Smith, including the cover-driven boundary that brought up his hundred off 113 deliveries and made him the third centurion of England's tour. He was also comfortable against the fast men, and a magnificent square-driven boundary off Clint McKay was another highlight.
At the other end, Collingwood did what he does best - compiled unobtrusively. However, he also took his opportunities when the bowlers erred, and he pulled a six onto the hill under the scoreboard when Smith dragged down an attempted flipper, and it took him only 78 deliveries to reach his half-century.
Collingwood and Bell wrested all the momentum from Australia A, after three quick wickets shortly before tea caused a few worries in the England dressing room. For much of the second session England cruised thanks to an 87-run partnership from Cook and Trott, until the departure of Cook, who on 60 unsuccessfully tried to clear mid-on off the left-arm spin of Steve O'Keefe, sparked a mini-collapse from the middle order.
Trott is the only England specialist batsman who has not posted a half-century in any of their warm-up matches, although he looked composed for most of his 41. But he was undone by a bouncer, when he miscued an attempted pull off Mark Cameron and was caught at mid-off, leaving him with a tour average of 30.
Pietersen did manage to pass fifty against Western Australia in the tour opener, but his average of 32.75 is also well below expectations after he inexplicably failed to deal with a straight ball from O'Keefe. Pietersen had been warming up on the boundary while Cook and Trott were still together, keen for some time in the middle, but his innings ended on 5 when he played inside a delivery that straightened just enough.
O'Keefe is not in the Test squad, but it was the sort of dismissal that can't hurt the Test aspirations of his fellow left-armer Xavier Doherty, who is a similar style of bowler. The only breakthrough in the morning session came when the nightwatchman Monty Panesar (13) top-edged a hook off Clint McKay and was taken at fine leg by Cameron.
Only 7.2 overs were bowled before lunch, as the intermittent rain in Hobart proved a nuisance for both teams. Bell ended up a much bigger nuisance for Australia A.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo