Saturday 20 January 2018

Bell chimes to repair early damage for England

ENGLAND run-machine Ian Bell delivered another century from his Ashes series production line to engineer a spirited fightback on the third day of the fourth test against Australia.

Ryan Harris sent shudders through the home dressing room by grabbing three early wickets, but Bell weathered the storm with a majestic unbeaten 105 that led England to 234 for five in their second innings at the close, an overall lead of 202 runs.

The low-scoring game in County Durham is still tantalisingly poised with two days to go and, with the wicket getting lower and also offering increasing turn for the spinners, Australia will not want to chase a target in excess of 270 or 280.

Kevin Pietersen and Jonny Bairstow gave Bell solid support, contributing 44 and 28 respectively.

"If we can get ourselves closer to a 300-run lead that's the important thing," Bell said. "The individual stuff is irrelevant really.

"I've had to work really hard in this series. I have a lot of respect for this Australian bowling attack."

The 31-year-old Bell, who has now accumulated three hundreds and two half-centuries in the series, repaired the damage caused by Harris who produced a fiery spell of fast bowling to remove Joe Root, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott.

Root was the first to go, clean bowled for two by a perfect delivery.

Captain Cook (22) followed his fellow opener back to the pavilion with the total on 42, feathering a catch behind to Brad Haddin.

Harris claimed his third victim seven runs later when Trott (23) gloved a short ball down the leg side and Haddin swooped for an athletic catch.

Bell was then joined in the middle by Pietersen and the pair repelled Australia's assault with a stand of 106.

The tourists were hampered when all-rounder Shane Watson was unable to finish his seventh over because of injury. It is not yet known if he will be able to bat in his team's second innings.

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