Bell maintains top form with record double century

Middlesex 298 & 137-3 Warwickshire 430

Ian Bell had said that the attention being focused on Kevin Pietersen might be to his advantage and it appears he was not wrong. From 143 overnight, Warwickshire's burgeoning star advanced superbly to 231 as the defending champions sought an opportunity to impose early dominance of the First Division table.

Ian Bell had said that the attention being focused on Kevin Pietersen might be to his advantage and it appears he was not wrong. From 143 overnight, Warwickshire's burgeoning star advanced superbly to 231 as the defending champions sought an opportunity to impose early dominance of the First Division table.

There should be little argument over Bell's technical ability compared with that of his newly qualified and enthusiastically hyped rival. Pietersen's power has been too much for many a county bowler and took a heavy toll of his compatriots during the one-day internationals in South Africa.

But Pietersen is the first to admit he has something to prove, whereas Bell looked at home immediately on his Test debut against West Indies last summer.

Bell's form so far this season is of the highest order. Already he has 430 first-class runs and is into a record-breaking streak. Yesterday, having already amassed the biggest aggregate of runs in April by a Warwickshire player, he eclipsed Tom Cartwright's 210, set in 1962, as the county's highest individual score in a home match against Middlesex. It was a second double century for the county by the 23-year-old right-hander and ensured Warwickshire had maximum batting points before lunch. He had been at the crease for more than seven hours when, having hit 29 fours, he was run out in an attempt to keep the strike.

If the well-being of Bell encourages England supporters, so too does that of Ashley Giles, who enjoyed himself with the bat before making Middlesex work hard for runs in the evening sunshine. The left-arm spinner's support for Bell gained him seven fours in a robust half century before he mispulled Alan Richardson to mid-wicket, giving the former Warwickshire seamer a fourth wicket on his return to Edgbaston.

Nick Knight did not wait long before summoning Giles into the attack as Middlesex began cautiously to nibble at a 132-run deficit, although it was Alex Loudon who made his mark first as the summer's first real warmth helped turn the surface to the advantage of the spinners.

The former Kent off-spinner had England's Andrew Strauss caught at slip with his first delivery before Giles brought down the curtain on a two-hour 12 by the dogged Ben Hutton. When Giles had Ed Smith leg before, Middlesex were three down and still 30 behind.

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