Ian Bell is confident his best Ashes performance will be enough to ensure England take a 1-0 lead in the series after the opening Test. Bell's 109 helped England set Australia 311 to win and they will be favourites to finish the job at a Trent Bridge today. At the close, Australia were 174 for six, needing 137 more runs for victory.
Memories of Edgbaston 2005, when Australia were beaten by just two runs after staging a remarkable fightback, will ensure England do not become complacent but Bell's work has contributed to their commanding position. "I would agree that it's up there with my best innings and it's certainly my best in the Ashes," said Bell, playing in his fifth Test series against Australia. "It's nice to do it when the team needed it most.
"I've played enough Ashes cricket not to take things for granted but we are happy with how patient we were in the final session. Although my performance in the 2005 Ashes was disappointing, I have been quite successful over the years.
"You want to win Ashes cricket and it's not about individual stuff. When you have finished playing you will remember these times and your team-mates – that is the most important thing to me."
Bell also praised the contribution of his colleague, Stuart Broad, who was at the centre of controversy on Friday for his failure to walk despite clearly being caught at slip.
Broad was on 37 at the time but he was dismissed for 65 today and then took two Australian wickets during impressive spells of bowling.
"He was fantastic," added Bell. "We need the lower order to score big runs if we are going to get big totals and he would have been very happy with the way he played. It was great to see him score runs.
"He is now over his shoulder problems, too, and he bowled very well during the afternoon and evening sessions."
Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, stuck rigidly to the party line by refusing to condemn Broad. "We would have liked him out for a lot less but that's the way the game goes," said Clarke. "Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't."
Clarke had more cause to bemoan the cards dealt his team by the Decision Review System. Two unsuccessful referrals on Friday meant they were helpless when the umpire, Aleem Dar, gave Broad not out after his obvious edge.
And yesterday, the system did not save Shane Watson, who fell to a marginal leg-before call against Broad. Clarke himself then reviewed a caught-behind chance, only for the Hot Spot system to show the tiniest edge on his bat. Once again, Australia will have no second chances if a tight umpiring decision goes against them today.
"I didn't think I hit it; I knew it had hit my pad. We thought we'd made the right decision, but there was a little mark on Hot Spot," said Clarke.
"That's the way it goes and it's the same for both teams but if you feel you're not out, you have to back your judgement.
"We're still confident we can win this game. We would like to have a few more wickets in hand but we've seen the way this game is going, first up and then down, so everything is possible."
Ashton Agar, the Test debutant who stunned the cricket world by scoring a record-breaking 98 in the first innings from No11 in the batting order, is one not out overnight having been promoted three places and Clarke is hoping for a similar performance from the 19-year-old.
"He plays with such freedom and confidence," said Clarke. "He wouldn't be a No11 in any team in the world. I just batted him there in the first innings to give him a chance to adjust to batting in a Test match but he proved me wrong with the way he played.
"He's as good a player of spin as we've had in a long time and he'll look forward to facing Graeme Swann."
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