Bell grabs chance to impress

Warwickshire 270-5 v Nottinghamshire
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After two months without a win in the County Championship, Warwickshire's need for a change of fortune is becoming urgent if they are not to face the prospect of another season in the Second Division. There is enough left in the current campaign for the table to take on a different hue but Warwickshire's chances of breaking into the top three probably depend on their winning at least one of the next two matches, with third-placed Hampshire in wait at the Rose Bowl following this one.

The first day here has left them well placed, although they needed to graft to set a platform for a competitive total after a tricky start in which three wickets were lost for 30 runs and then having to endure a lengthy stoppage for rain after lunch.

No one impressed more in the circumstances than Ian Bell, a 19-year-old batsman the county believe will provide one of the cornerstones of future success. Bell, who led England's under-19 side in their recent one-day series against West Indies, was due to have played in this summer's under-19 Test series, starting at Leicester on Monday, but after agreement was reached with the national team's coach, Tim Boon, he has been released to further his development in county cricket.

Warwickshire were grateful for that yesterday when Bell and the all-rounder Dougie Brown added 176 runs for the fifth wicket. The partnership ended when Brown, who completed his first century of the summer, was caught behind in an attempted sweep.

Bell, a compact right-hander was in luck at the outset, almost caught by a leaping Chris Read when he had made one and escaped again on four, when Kevin Pietersen dropped a better chance at gully off the bowling of Andrew Harris.

But he put these blemishes behind him and through diligent application survived more than four and a half hours to be unbeaten on 80 at the close. A good chunk of his runs came in a rush of scoring that took him from 19 off 91 balls to 50 off 112, and he soon left behind his previous highest Championship score of 51 against Gloucestershire earlier this season.

He followed Brown, who arrived at 50 in only 54 deliveries, and David Hemp in making half-centuries as Warwickshire made a convincing recovery and too many Nottinghamshire bowlers failed to bowl a consistent line.

Greg Smith, their leading wicket-taker, was the notable exception, the rapid South African-born left-armer inflicting all the early damage as Nick Knight and Michael Powell were undone by steep bounce and Mark Wagh was bowled shouldering arms. Hemp, who hit eight fours, was out when he skied Greg Blewett's first ball to deep mid-wicket, but thereafter Bell and Brown steadily assumed command.