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Attack the best form of defence for Bell

Ian Bell remained optimistic at the end of day four following an improved batting display

By Dave Clark

Ian Bell has encouraged his England team-mates to take the game to the Australia bowlers on the final day in Perth as the tourists look to keep their Ashes hopes alive.

Set what would be a world-record 504 for victory, England were heading for a series defeat at 121 for four before a stand of 99 between Bell and Ben Stokes repaired some of the damage.

The Warwickshire batsman edged Peter Siddle behind late on for 60, leaving Stokes and Matt Prior to take the score on to 251 for five at stumps.

But rather than try and cling on for a draw, Bell believes England need to go out and play some shots on a WACA surface wrought with ever-expanding cracks.

"Ben Stokes has played fantastically well," Ian Bell said of the young Durham all-rounder, who struck a first Test fifty

"You have to show positive intent," Bell exclusively told ecb.co.uk. "You can't just try and survive.

"We've got to try and put a bit of pressure on Australia - you've got to put the bowlers under pressure, and hopefully there will be a bit more of that tomorrow.

"Cricket is a funny game; we need a bit of luck to go our way and two guys to play brilliantly well.

"I'm sure the two guys who are going to walk out in the morning believe they can do something special and I hope they can.

"We haven't played near where we need to if we're going to compete with Australia. If we get a chance of winning it great, if not we've got to keep fighting. We've got two more games to go and we have to improve, take it on the chin and keep moving forward."

Bell was full of praise for Durham all-rounder Stokes, who needs a further 28 runs on day five to turn a first Test fifty into a maiden format century in only his second appearance at this level.

If the 22-year-old does achieve the feat, it will also be England's first of the series - a fact Bell acknowledges has caused many of the visitors' problems.

"Ben Stokes has played fantastically well," he added. "It's great to see a 22-year-old come out and play like that.

"He's incredible with the ball as well, the way he just kept running in in hot conditions is a great sign for the future. Fingers crossed he can go on and get a hundred tomorrow.

"Scoring hundreds is what wins Test cricket. Fifties are nice but they don't get you very far in terms of winning games, so I want to go on and get big scores."

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