Warwickshire 248-9 v Nottinghamshire <i>(Match abandoned at 73 mins)</i>: Ali salvages pride on first-class debut

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The Independent Online

A disappointingly brief return to domestic cricket by England's Ian Bell was symptomatic of an undistinguished day for Warwickshire as Nottinghamshire underlined some of their title-winning qualities. But there was consolation in an impressive debut innings from an 18-year-old batsman who may soon attract the kind of attention that Bell will remember only too vividly.

Moeen Ali's first steps in Championship cricket were far from easy. Warwickshire were 133 for 6 when his moment arrived. But, after a patient beginning by the slightly built left-hander, his self-assuredness grew to the extent that he became willing by the close to reveal some lovely strokeplay on both sides of the wicket.

He completed his half-century with his 10th boundary, driven beautifully through the covers, and had the confidence to take on Nottinghamshire's best bowler, making no concession to the five wickets Andrew Harris had taken by languidly pulling him for an audacious six. At stumps, he was unbeaten on 68 and Warwickshire were in better shape than they could have hoped.

With Michael Vaughan not yet fit, Bell's place at No 3 in the England line-up should not be under threat. But given that Owais Shah and Alastair Cook have the opportunity to impress the selectors in the England A match against Sri Lanka at Worcester, some runs in this match would not go amiss.

They will have to wait, however. A steer to third man provided the comfort of an early boundary but he had faced only 15 deliveries when Harris ended his hopes of a lengthy practice, an indecisive nudge outside off stump deflecting the ball gently to first slip.

With Nick Knight already gone, the home side's decision to field first looked a good move. Nottinghamshire did not win the Championship without being bold and have the confidence to back their bowlers in most conditions. It proved well placed. When Harris dismissed Jim Troughton to claim his third wicket just after lunch, Warwickshire were in a state at 83 for 5.

They were saved from something worse initially by Michael Powell, then by Dougie Brown, who made a solid 53 with nine boundaries. It was a shame he was caught in two minds with the stroke that gave David Alleyne, keeping wicket while Chris Read joins England A, his third catch.

But Ali was quite unfazed as responsibility passed to him. The teenager made a half-century on his first-class debut, against Cambridge UCCE last season and captained England in the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka during the winter. Expectation can be expected to rise henceforth. In Bell, he has a colleague who is well-placed to advise.

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