Bell irritated by lack of hundred
Ian Bell felt frustrated after missing another chance for an Ashes century as England battled into a promising position in the final Test.
The Warwickshire batsman demonstrated his improved technique again on the opening day at the SCG with a determined 71 as England reached 234 for four at the end of a day reduced to 80 overs by rain and bad light.
It was Bell’s fourth half-century of the series and demonstrated his marked improvement since the 2005 series, when he passed 50 only twice and also recorded seven single figure scores.
But he admitted his failure to reach three figures in this series had been a source of irritation for him after being bowled by Glenn McGrath shortly after tea.
“It has been a little bit frustrating,” he admitted. “Today I thought I got a pretty decent delivery so I can’t really grumble on that one, especially with McGrath and (Stuart) Clark bowling exceptionally well.
“As a unit I thought Australia bowled in really good areas and there was a long period of time when it was quite difficult out there.
“The wicket seemed to have enough in it right throughout the day and we were hopefully trying to get through to when it flattened out - but there was enough there to make you feel that you were never quite in as a batsman.
“When I’m playing McGrath it is just a case of patience because I know what he is trying to do to me.”
“Probably the ball that got me out is the ball that he wants to bowl to me the majority of the time, either taking the edge or going through the gate.
“That is what he does, he tests your technique all the way through and I think he bowled really well in that spell along with Warney, not giving us much to hit.”
“There was always a delivery that was beating the bat and credit to Australia they bowled really well again and the guys did well to battle through the last hour too.”
Bell played a key role in a 108-run stand with Kevin Pietersen which allowed England to recover from a potentially perilous 58 for two - although neither batsman ever looked dominating.
Pietersen scored only one boundary in his 41, but Bell said: “It was really hard work out there.
“Australia bowled very well and I think it was very difficult to get on top of them, it was real graft out there.
“At times it didn’t look too pretty, but sometimes you’re going to score runs when it doesn’t look great and you’ve just got to take as many as you can get.”
Australian coach John Buchanan also thought his attack had bowled well and claims the match is evenly-poised after Paul Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff shared an unbroken 67-run stand before the close.
“I think it’s about even,” said Buchanan. “We’d have loved to taken one or two more wickets and possibly England would have liked to have scored another 20 or 30 runs but I thought we bowled pretty well through the day.
“We caused a few played and missed and a few edges during the day, but then England batted reasonably resolutely."
Pietersen, in his own unique style, tried to put McGrath and the other seamers off their line and length by walking down the pitch and trying to hit through the line.
“It’s a tactic he will use to try and change the length of a bowler,” conceded Buchanan. “If a bowler builds up a series of dot balls he tries to find ways of changing a bowler’s line and length and that’s one method he uses and has used for some period of time and is generally quite effective.
“I don’t see him using it against real fast bowling as in Lee but he does use it against the medium fast bowlers like McGrath and other bowlers around that pace.
“It’s something he uses quite frequently. I’ve certainly seen it in the one-day format and I’ve seen it in Test matches and he uses it very well.”
“I think it’s evenly poised and with the new ball due it could be a crucial time for both sides.
“We beat the bat quite a bit and when we had them two down early on there might have been some ghosts floating around in the dressing room - but I think they responded well.”