Bell shines after England ride luck

Bangladesh 419 England 440-8
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The Independent Online

As England ground on and on (and on) yesterday their coach's wisdom had never seemed more pertinent. Before the series, Andy Flower, pondering the vagaries of umpiring decisions, concluded that they tended to favour bigger teams.

This means that small teams suffer and Flower knew whereof he spoke from long experience as a player with Zimbabwe. He may be grateful in his new incarnation that nothing has changed. Three times Bangladesh had legitimate if marginal appeals rejected by umpires on the third day of the second Test and three times they were denied.

England were allowed to prosper, or to capitalise as their top scorer, Ian Bell, put it. He made a stoic, crafted 138, his 10th Test century and the first he had reached without a colleague having already done so in the innings. It was another significant step on Bell's path to batting maturity, which for so long he could not have located with a compass, roadmap and satnav combined.

He might easily have perished on 82 when the left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak pierced his defences, only for Tony Hill to decide that the batsman was not lbw. The instinctive reaction from elsewhere was that it looked as if the ball might be hitting leg stump; the replays confirmed it.

By then Bangladesh's beseechments were half-hearted, possibly because they had already been spurned when Matt Prior, on only nine, was hit on the pads, beaten by some late swing from Rubel Hossain and when Tim Bresnan, on five, gave a catch off bat and pad to silly point. All three would have been given out under the Umpire Decision Review System, which is irrationally not being used in this series.

Hill turned down both lbw appeals, his colleague Rod Tucker the catch. After the third rejection, Bangladesh's coach, Jamie Siddons, appeared on the outfield to gesticulate, indicating the ball hitting pad and then putting up his index finger. The world knew what he felt.

These things happen in cricket but they happen to a team like Bangladesh more often. The next time an apparatchik from the International Cricket Council says how wonderful umpires are and that the proportion of correct decisions is now approaching the stratosphere he would be advised to do so well away from Dhaka.

Between them, the reprieved men added another 167 runs to England's dogged, dull first innings. Bell and Prior added a veritably racy 143 runs for the sixth wicket after the early dismissal of the dour Jonathan Trott – a stroke of fortune for Bangladesh, which was not to be repeated, when the ball went via bat, pad and elbow to the stumps.

The last two sessions were much more muted, yielding 87 and 68 runs respectively. There were times when nothing much was happening except the taking of drinks, which were being ferried out at every given opportunity along with towels, gloves and probably messages of support from family at home.

These breaks in play are irritating for a format of the game under heavy pressure and deep scrutiny, but the way things are going 12th man at cricket, entailing multiple skills as it does, will soon be a career option.

England's good fortune allowed them to close the day on 440 for 8, Bell having batted for almost seven hours before he spooned a catch to mid-wicket, disappointed especially perhaps because it reduced his batting average against Bangladesh in his fourth match to 244.00.

If Bell played the most controlled innings of the day, Prior infused it with real purpose. After his narrow escape he played some typically scathing shots, mowing and cutting the ball with abandon. He was out badly when he charged at Shakib-al-Hasan, heaved at the ball and was bowled.

For most of the day, Bangladesh whirled away with spin, although Rubel chipped in occasionally and occasionally obtained genuine swing. By close Shakib had bowled 57 overs while conceding a mere 99 runs, a rate of 1.73 an over. This was an exemplary effort – his variations are as yet few but he is as straight as a plumb line – though a little shorter in parsimony than Vinoo Mankad's 76 overs for 58 runs at Delhi in 1951.

Towards the end, England's position was slightly eroded by the dismissals of Graeme Swann, run out backing up, and Stuart Broad, leg before to Mahmudullah's off spin, a request that no umpire could have refused no matter who was asking. Bresnan was still there, with his first Test half century in only his second innings. He might seem a little high at No 7 and comparisons with previous seam-bowling all-rounders would be premature at best.

But he comports himself properly at the crease and he was quite content to bat and bat for the sake of it (and the team). These assets may be crucial. In dressing rooms, making the most of the rub of the green and indeed standing there as if butter would not melt in your mouth when you have hit the cover off the ball are not, so to speak, dismissed lightly.

Scoreboard: Sher-e-Bangla Stadium

Second Test, Dhaka, third day of five

Bangladesh won toss

BANGLADESH First Innings 419 (Iqbal 85, Mahmudullah 59, Islam 59no, Swann 4-114).

ENGLAND First Innings

Overnight: 171-3

I J L Trott b Al Hasan......... 64

195 balls 7 fours

I R Bell c Islam b Al Hasan......... 138

262 balls 15 fours 1 six

†M J Prior b Al Hasan......... 62

89 balls 9 fours

T T Bresnan not out......... 74

214 balls 5 fours

G P Swann run out (Al Hasan)......... 6

6 balls

S C J Broad lbw b Mahmudullah......... 3

14 balls

J C Tredwell not out......... 0

2 balls

Extras (b 9, lb 11, w 1, nb 6)......... 27

Total (8 wkts, 154 overs)......... 440

Fall: 1-29 (Cook), 2-105 (Pietersen), 3-107 (Collingwood), 4-174 (Trott), 5-272 (Prior), 6-415 (Bell), 7-426 (Swann), 8-434 (Broad).

Bowling: S Islam 14-3-45-0 (w1) (1-0-1-0, 4-1-12-0, 1-1-0-0, 3-0-15-0, 5-1-17-0), A Razzak 37-7-127-1 (14-3-41-1, 4-0-24-0, 1-0-4-0, 1-0-2-0, 5-1-27-0, 9-2-23-0, 1-1-0-0, 2-0-6-0), S Al Hasan 57-27-99-4 (1-1-0-0, 23-13-26-1, 6-3-6-1, 2-0-5-0, 12-4-39-1, 13-6-23-1), M Mahmudullah 15-3-36-1 (1-1-0-0, 3-0-8-0, 8-1-24-0, 3-1-4-1), R Hossain 23-4-80-1 (nb6) (8-0-32-1, 2-0-5-0, 5-2-19-0, 2-0-7-0, 2-1-4-0, 3-1-6-0, 1-0-7-0), N Islam 7-0-29-0 (1-0-5-0, 6-0-24-0), T Iqbal 1-0-4-0 (one spell).

Progress: 200: 76.5 overs. 250: 86.3 overs, Lunch: 285-5 (I Bell 70, T Bresnan 4) 94.0 overs. 300: 99.1 overs. 350: 120.3 overs, Tea 372-5 (I Bell 115, T Bresnan 45) 127.0 overs. 400: 135.3 overs, Close of play: 440-8. Bell 50: 100 balls, 6 fours; 100: 200 balls, 11 fours, 1 six; Prior 50: 83 balls, 7 fours; Bresnan 50: 137 balls, 3 fours.

Umpires: A L Hill (NZ) & R J Tucker (Aus)

TV replay umpire: Nadir Shah (Bangla).

Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).