Bell: 'I am happy but I know when Freddie is fit that I'm out'

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The Independent Online

While Ian Bell piled up the runs and the good news for England out in the middle, behind the Lord's arena, in the nets at the Nursery End, the man he replaced for this first Test against Pakistan was giving home fans more reasons to be cheerful.

Andrew Flintoff came through a rigorous session with bat and ball as he attempts to recover from an ankle operation in time to captain England in the second Test at Old Trafford on 27 July.

Flintoff's recovery is welcomed by Bell, who said last night: "I have come in to the team to replace 'Freddie' [Flintoff] and I know that when he is fit I am out. But it was great to be back playing Test cricket for England. And I really enjoyed scoring a hundred at Lord's.

"I am very happy I showed people I can play at this level and from a long-term point of view that's a good thing for me."

Talking of Paul Collingwood's 186, Bell said: "What Paul did is what we all have to do as top-order batters. It is not just about getting hundreds but big hundreds."

The Pakistan coach, Bob Woolmer, was impressed by Bell's performance. When he was in charge at Warwickshire, the former Kent and England all-rounder was the one who gave Bell his chance.

"Given that we fielded far better today I thought that Bell played well," he said. "That was a pretty impressive innings, and while I cannot claim any credit for bringing Bell on, that should be put down to Neal Abberley, I was the one who gave him his debut in 2000."

Although pressed about his hopes of getting on to the Ashes tour in the winter all Bell wanted to do was focus on the remaining three days of this match. "With three wickets down already we have to hit them hard tomorrow," he said.

Pakistan suffered another blow when Woolmer also admitted that the off-spinning all-rounder Shoaib Malik was struggling to take any part in the series because of a persistent elbow injury which is failing to respond to treatment.

So the news of Flintoff's imminent return is worrying for the tourists as they struggle with a series of injury problems.

Flintoff, 28, who missed the humiliating one-day series against Sri Lanka, was satisfied with his latest work-out. "I wasn't bowling full at full pelt today," said Flintoff, who had also had a couple of gentle outings in the final two of Lancashire's Twenty20 Cup matches.

"I've still got something else left to give, but I bowled six overs, so it was my best work-out yet, and I am not creaking.

"But I am not going to get ahead of myself about my fitness for the second Test, because I can't be sure, until I have bowled in a four-day match. I am going to have another net practice with the England lads tomorrow. It has all been geared towards playing in the Championship match against Kent at Canterbury next Tuesday."