County Championship round-up: Clear as a Bell that England batsman is in sparkling form

 

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The Independent Online

Seven of the last 12 days of scheduled cricket here have been complete washouts, so in a summer of gratitude for small mercies, the 65 overs of play which were possible before another band of rain arrived were much appreciated, not least for the pleasure provided by another eminently watchable innings from England's in-form batsman Ian Bell.

The only disappointment was that it ended too soon, not long after he had passed 50 for the sixth time in eight innings after his success in the one-day series against Australia, which he began with a brilliant 126 at Hampshire. He had just driven Sussex's Australian seamer, Steve Magoffin, past mid-off for his 10th boundary but mistimed the next ball, a shorter one that he pulled straight to the fielder at midwicket.

Still, it had been a bonus to see him at all, given how infrequently some England players are allowed to turn out for their counties. Bell had the option to miss this match, in common with his clubmate, Jonathan Trott, who chose to rest, and would have been readily excused given it coincided with his wife Chantal – who is expecting their first child – undergoing an ultrasound scan which he wanted to attend.

But as eager as he was to be a supportive husband, he also wanted the opportunity to face a red ball again before England's First Test against South Africa at The Oval next week and, aided by a noon start, was able to do both.

"It's all down to the individual, whatever gets you in the right frame of mind for a Test match," he said. "With the weather we've had it is good to get any time in the middle. I have been feeling in good nick and I just want to keep that going."

He enjoyed an entertaining joust with his England colleague, Monty Panesar, who is bowling well this season, as he demonstrated in the way he removed the danger being posed by Will Porterfield, who had clipped him through midwicket for his seventh four to reach 43 but was leg before playing back as Monty hurried the next ball through out of the rough. Warwickshire were 175 for three when play was called off.

Title rivals Nottinghamshire, meanwhile, established a substantial lead before the rain swept into Uxbridge. Having bowled out Middlesex for 98 on Wednesday, Chris Read's side advanced from 114-4 overnight to 329 all out.

Despite losing their last five wickets for 41, this gave them a lead of 231, the bulk of their runs coming in a 143-run partnership for the sixth wicket between Read (71) and the Australian Adam Voges (105).

There was an early finish to day two at Guildford but Lancashire are well placed at 425 for seven in their first innings after Steven Croft become their second century-maker.

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