West Indies strike back but struggling England saved by Bell

IAN BELL settled into his most successful position in the batting order to rescue England against the West Indies at Old Trafford yesterday.

On a fast and bouncy surface reminiscent of the one upon which England completed an innings triumph over Pakistan a year ago, it took another determined performance from Bell to prevent the tourists taking all the positives from the opening day.

Bell top-scored with an unbeaten 77 having battled for over three and a halfhours and guided England to 296 for seven at the close after West Indies’attack, severely criticised for their performance at Headingley when they lost by an innings, responded with their best performance of the series.

Having won the toss and decided to bat first, England would have hoped to have secured a greater advantage, but had to overcome the loss of Andrew Strauss in the third over when he was lbw to Jerome Taylor for six.

Captain Vaughan set about laying the foundation for a significant first innings total and brought up the 50 partnership with Alastair Cook in only 39 balls.

They enjoyed such superiority over the misfiring West Indies attack, which had been reinforced with the greater pace of Fidel Edwards, that England cruised to 76 for one in only 15 overs and 112 for one by lunch.

But instead of building on that foundation, England slumped in the afternoon session and lost four wickets in 12 overs after the interval which put the tourists firmly on top.

Vaughan fell just four overs after lunch, bowled by a delivery from Corey Collymore which seamed back into him.

Kevin Pietersen lasted only six overs before being tempted into hooking a short ball from Collymore which found the safe hands of Dwayne Bravo in the deep.

All-rounder Bravo also claimed a smart low catch in the gully three overs later after Cook mistimed an attempted cut having battled for nearly three hours for his 60.

Taylor continued England’s collapse by earning a fortuitous lbw decision against Paul Collingwood to leave England struggling on 166 for five when Matt Prior joined Bell at the crease.

Together the pair added a crucial 98 runs during a partnership spanning 25 overs which, had it remained intact, would have guided England into a promising position.

But just eight overs before the close, Prior’s attacking instincts got the better of him and he was caught in the deep for 40.

His demise opened up the tail and just six overs after the West Indies had taken the new ball, Edwards’ extra pace broke the defences of Liam Plunkett.

But crucially Bell remained intact to spearhead England’s bid to reach a more competitive total.

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