Late wickets dampen Bell's day
Ian Bell conceded that England were "disappointed" to lose three late wickets to surrender a strong position towards the end of the first day of the second Investec Ashes Test at Lord's.
England were progressing smoothly at 271 for 4 when Bell, having made a high-class century, edged a leg-break in the first over from part-time spinner Steve Smith. Bell's dismissal precipitated a decline that saw England lost three wickets for 12 runs and sees them start the second day with no specialist batsmen remaining.
But Bell also suggested that England had recovered well from a poor start - they were 28 for 3 within the first 40 minutes - and that they probably would have settled for a total of 289 for 7 by stumps at that stage.
Bell, with the 19th Test century of his career, was the mainstay of the revival and, after centuries in the final Test of the previous series between the sides at Sydney and in the first Test of this series at Trent Bridge, became just the fourth England batsman to register centuries in three successive Ashes Tests. The others are Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Chris Broad.
"It was disappointing to lose those wickets but it wasn't a bad day," Bell said. "We would have taken that at three down early on.
"The important thing is to win the first hour in the morning. We could do with getting to 350 and we do have a bit of batting to come, but it is a bit disappointing to lose those wickets to the late strikes.
"It's very satisfying to play a big innings. It's what I have wanted to do over the last couple of years and you need as big a first-innings score as we can on a that wicket. I had to leave as well as possible early on and then try to cash in as the day went on.
"I've only just found out about the record. It's incredible; a real honour to be with those names. Lord's is a special place and to go back into the dressing room and see that the lads have put your name in tape on the honours board is really special. The innings came at a time that was important for me and the team."
While Bell was understandably dismayed to lose his wicket to a spinner who, before this game, had only four Test wickets and had all but given up bowling, he could see the silver lining in his dismissal.
With Smith getting a leg-break to turn sharply and take the edge of Bell's bat on the first afternoon, he felt that Graeme Swann may also find some assistance later in the game.
"It's a good sign there's a bit of spin from straight," Bell said. "That's nice. He took one wicket with a full toss and then bowled a couple of good deliveries but it's a good sign to have a bit of spin from straight. I'm a little bit surprised by the amount of turn. It usually skids on more at Lord's.
"It's a lot drier than a normal Lord's pitch and looks much different. It's difficult to know what a par score is but the longer we get this weather it will be very dry and hopefully there is more pace by the time we get to the fourth or fifth day."
If England fall below 400 in their first innings, they will have failed to reach that total for nine innings in succession, stretching back to Wellington. While Bell could provide no explanation for that run of form, he felt England's batsmen were "not far away" from a collective return to form.
"Sometimes it happens like that," Bell said. "The work ethic is always there with his group. It's been my turn to get runs, but in the past our top three have been outstanding at setting a platform. We're not far away and when it does happen we'll find ourselves in a good position."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo