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England rewarded for building pressure - Bell

Ian Bell believes England were rewarded for their patience when seizing the upper hand on the fourth evening of the first Investec Ashes Test.

After Bell’s masterful 109 had helped set Australia an imposing target of 311, more than any team has previously chased to win a Test at Trent Bridge, the tourists were reduced to 174 for six by stumps.

Things had not looked quite so encouraging for England as Australia’s openers put on 84, but Shane Watson’s departure to Stuart Broad led to a marked drop in the run-rate.

With demands on the batsmen intensifying, Ed Cowan and Chris Rogers fell either side of tea and England then pressed on by claiming three wickets for as many runs shortly before stumps.

"I think we were very happy, in that last session, with how patient we were and getting our rewards at the end was very satisfying," explained Bell in his post-play press conference.

"I thought Australia played very well when they first came out. We probably didn’t bowl quite to the standards we’d like and then reassessed at tea.

"We came out with a plan to be very accurate, maybe a little bit more defensive with our field settings, keep the run-rate down and create pressure. We got our wickets at the end due to really accurate bowling."

By tightening the screw in day four’s final session, England’s bowlers exhibited their capacity to build pressure effectively on a placid surface.

"Having played quite a bit of sub-continent cricket in the last 12 to 18 months, it’s something we’ve had to work out," Bell added.

"This wicket has been very close to (one from the) sub-continent and our bowlers have been very good at adapting.

"They’re not just guys who can run up on green seaming wickets and take wickets; they can take wickets on all surfaces. They’ve got a lot of skills."

England now appear favourites, although that cannot count for too much given the staggering number of momentum shifts already witnessed in this game.

One such shift came in Australia’s first innings when debutant Ashton Agar compiled a classy 98 to set the new record score for a Test number 11.

Agar made it through to stumps this evening alongside Brad Haddin, prompting Bell to state: "It’s a big first hour for both teams tomorrow morning."

He continued: "They’ve got two guys that are dangerous players now at the crease and we have to get them out early.

"I’ve played too much Ashes cricket ... I know not to take anything for granted now."

Bell was able to reflect positively on his own outstanding contributon, which spanned 267 balls and 385 minutes.

Asked if he agreed the knock represented his best in an England shirt, the 31-year-old replied: "Certainly it’s my best Ashes innings and it was nice to put an innings together when the team needed it most."

A sell-out crowd of 17,000 will witness the final day of five, with all still to play for.

"Trent Bridge has always been somewhere brilliant to play. The atmosphere is always top drawer," Bell added.

"It’s been great and that’s what Ashes cricket is all about."

Australia skipper Michael Clarke, the first victim of England’s final-hour surge, remains confident his side can come out on top, given the twists and turns witnessed in Nottingham thus far.

"I think the way we have seen the rollercoaster go up and down these four days, anything is possible tomorrow," he said.

"We would like to have a few more wickets in hand; I would still like to be not out, but I’m still really confident, with the way Ashton played in the first innings, Brad Haddin’s experience and the batters that are left to come, that we have a good chance of winning this Test match.

"It’s going to be a tough battle, but there are guys there that have plenty of experience. Mitchell Starc has scored 99 in a Test match in India, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson have scored plenty of runs for us and Brad Haddin has got plenty of experience.

"It’s going to be a tough battle, but I know the boys are going to be looking forward to it."

 

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