Bell warms to the task
A first glimpse of form this season from Ian Bell restored some order at Edgbaston, where 15 wickets fell on the first day of Warwickshire’s LV= County Championship meeting with Durham.
After scoring only 134 runs in nine Test innings against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Bell made an unbeaten 59 as the home side struggled to 116 for five in reply to Durham’s 163.
Bell gradually imposed his quality after Warwickshire had lost four wickets for 14, including that of England team-mate Jonathan Trott.
Varun Chopra and Trott fell in four overs from Graham Onions before Bell, with eight fours in his highest first-class score since August, alongside Darren Maddy, who made 35.
They put on 85 until the impressive Onions, helped by a neat catch at second slip from Michael Di Venuto, shifted the latter shortly before the close.
Keith Barker, who claimed 5-33, was chiefly responsible for Durham’s troubles while improving on his best championship figures for the second time in 10 days.
Durham lost the toss for only the third time in 19 championship matches, and there was a price to pay when Barker surpassed 5-52 against his native Lancashire.
The visitors lost four wickets in the most difficult period for batting up to lunch, but allowed their discipline to collapse when Barker claimed 4-0 in 12 balls during his afternoon spell.
Durham have already suffered at the hands of Barker, who scored a maiden century off their bowling at Edgbaston last year.
Having worked on his left-arm swing bowling over the winter, he has taken his opportunity this season in the absence of injured new-ball pair Chris Woakes and Boyd Rankin.
Teaming up with former Essex seamer Chris Wright, who took the supporting role with 4-41, they have shared 32 wickets in their county’s rise to the top of the early Division One table.
Wright was first to strike today - Will Smith edging a catch behind the wicket - and Barker had conceded only three runs in 5.5 overs when an inswinger trapped Paul Collingwood in front.
Di Venuto, having passed 25,000 first-class runs in making 29, and Dale Benkenstein joined the list of lbw dismissals, but Ben Stokes looked comfortable in seeing Durham through to lunch.
Playing only as a batsman despite a scan on his back revealing no new damage, the England Lions all-rounder got to 35 before a loose drive gave Barker the first of three wickets in an over.
Callum Thorp smashed a long-hop to short midwicket but Warwickshire were then held up by a partnership of 49, the biggest of the innings.
While Ian Blackwell played conservatively for 19, Onions put the conditions into perspective with a confident 36, until Wright came back to take the last two wickets.