SPORT

It's Bell's turn to score century

Ted Corbett

CHESTER-le-STREET: Surprisingly, no side has beaten Bangladesh in two days, not even the unstoppable Australians which is why Michael Vaughan, the England captain, must have been tempted to declare as soon as Ian Bell reached his century on the second day of the second Test. Such a rapid victory would have been a marvellous propaganda victory. England had decided to avoid a public relations war. The Australians have been prattling away all year; England has not replied. It may be the best policy but if it had pulled out all the stops to beat Bangladesh with three days to spare there would have been no need for words.

Only 18 Tests have been over in two days; 12 involving England which has won nine. Instead Vaughan took the long view. He thought that a big century by Bell was more important in the long term and that England would still have time to win by the close.

Composed innings

First we had to wait for Bell to reach his first century that he managed in his own way. Bell is a composed young man who has at 23 seen all the disappointments and been made to wait for his chance. Now he will hang on to his place if he has to spill blood. After today's performance he need to worry about no-one. Not Rob Key left at home in Kent to review his diet and his athletism; not Mark Butcher, at the Oval wondering if he will ever get another chance; not Kevin Pietersen, for all his driving ambition, his indifference to offensive words and his booming strokes. Ask not for whom the Bell tolls. It has tolled for this accomplished all-round batsman, waiting his turn to be the England No.3 and, with the backing of Michael Vaughan, serving his time at No.4 while gathering an average of 297 — 70 off the West Indies, 65 in the first Test and today's 162 in just under four hours, off 169 balls, with 25 boundaries and a six.

The Bangladesh attack was no attack at all. I doubt if the foursome beat the bat half a dozen times in the morning session while Bell and Graham Thorpe scored 178 runs before Vaughan's lunchtime declaration at 447 for three. Not once did an English heart beat faster; as usual in these two Tests play was too placid, too predictable to constitute a true match.

Bell scored 100 runs before lunch, Thorpe went his own leisurely way about scoring 66, boosting his average ahead of harder times later in the summer and together they put on 187 for the third wicket. Javed Omar, who is the Bangladesh player of the series, and Nafis Iqbal made 50 before Iqbal's curious departure. He was shocked by a rising ball from Flintoff and Geraint Jones dived forward and claimed the catch. Iqbal left but at the boundary edge he saw the replay that suggested the ball had fallen short of Jones's outstretched glove. He tried to return but the umpires shooed him off and he could be seen in the dressing room complaining.By now the pitch was so lacking in vice that Vaughan had to call up Gareth Batty's off spin when Steve Harmison, the first innings destroyer, went off with a thigh strain. Flintoff had Rajin Saleh caught and an lbw shout against Mohammad Ashraful turned down but Javed Omar reached his seventh Test fifty off 74 balls. Ashraful was caught in the deep 10 balls before tea when Bangladesh was still 235 behind with seven wickets to fall and threatening to play on into the third day.

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