England hero hits top form on ‘fantastic’ wicket

Ian Bell celebrates his century. Picture: Barry Zee
Ian Bell celebrates his century. Picture: Barry Zee
Jonny Bairstow, right, thanks skipper Eoin Morgan. Picture: Neil Marshall

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Ian Bell insists he is taking it as a compliment after being labelled ‘a pain in the backside’.

The England batsman struck an unbeaten 119 to become the first player to record a Test century at the Rose Bowl and continue a fine record at the Hampshire venue.

Having cracked 104 in Warwickshire’s County Championship win on the same ground last summer, Bell was in majestic form again.

And after Sri Lanka coach Stuart Law offered a good-natured insult in his direction during his press conference, Bell was happy to take it in the way it was intended.

Asked if he took it as a compliment, Bell smiled: ‘I hope so! It’s been a good series for me.

‘I feel like I am batting as well as I can at the minute, which is nice.

‘My record here was not really a factor. It’s a shame with the weather because this would be a really good five-day wicket.

‘It has pace, bounce and it’s good to bat on. The more wickets we can get like this around the country, the better – especially with our attack.

‘It’s a fantastic cricket wicket, and if a bowler hits the pitch hard, they will get something out of it.

‘I’m really happy with where my game is going but hopefully there is still a long way to go to keep improving.’

While the statistic of Bell only scoring centuries after someone else in the side had reached three figures was often thrown in his direction, his form over the past year or so has shown his worth to the England side and underlined his talent.

He said: ‘It’s nice to contribute to us getting into winning positions.

‘The goal is to be as consistent as possible.

‘In the past, I have played well at times and probably not when it has got very tough.

‘But over the past 12 to 18 months I feel I have put in performances when the team have needed it most.

‘I feel confident. I think I have improved in certain areas of my game and I feel on top of my game.’

England will have one eye on the weather today as they try to take the remaining seven Sri Lankan wickets between the showers.

Bell believes only the rain can stop an England success.

He said: ‘We know the weather forecast isn’t great so we wanted to have a good 50 overs at them.

‘I thought we deserved more than three wickets and I thought Stuart Broad was back to his best and deserved more than one wicket.

‘Maybe 30 to 40 overs might be enough to get the remaining wickets.

‘We probably deserved to have them five wickets down but they have got a long tail.

‘We do fancy our chances if we can get Kumar Sangakkara out early.

‘If we can get two or three quickly, we can go through the tail.’