MCG toil will benefit bowlers - Bell
Ian Bell believes it bodes well for England that their bowlers have had a tough work-out in the tour match against Victoria.
The tourists’ second-string attack have had to put in the hard yards on a lifeless MCG wicket that, aside from two declarations and a likely third tomorrow, would have destined the three-day game for a draw.
That England and Victoria declared their first innings two wickets down on 216 and 184 respectively means there could yet be a positive result.
The hosts lead by 310 with four second-innings wickets left, having been boosted by declaration bowling from Andrew Strauss and Eoin Morgan in today's final session.
That allowed Victoria to reach 278 for six with Paul Collingwood claiming three late wickets in addition to two from Monty Panesar and one for Strauss.
While England’s three main seamers in this game - Tim Bresnan, Ajmal Shahzad and Chris Tremlett - went wicketless today, Bell knows that whichever of them takes the injured Stuart Broad’s place in next week’s third Ashes Test a Perth will be well prepared.
"It's been a hard wicket for the bowlers," he said. "It's so slow out there, but they've toiled away.
"It's reverse-swung, and it's good to see those guys use those sorts of skills - which might come in at some point at the WACA.
"They've worked hard. It's great going into Perth that all three of them had a good work-out in batting-friendly conditions."
Bell put an added positive spin on the bowlers' lot when he added: "It's much better that than a green seamer, where they've all taken five-for and bowled a couple of good balls but some bad ones as well.
"They've generally gone at two an over all game - and that's exactly what we want, going into a Test match."
There was reason for more satisfaction for Bell himself, meanwhile, after his fifth successive half-century.
Given the chance to move up from number six to three in the absence of the rested Jonathan Trott, Bell shared a second-wicket stand of 92 with his captain Strauss and helped England pile on 134 runs in the morning session.
"It was nice to get the opportunity against the newer ball," said Bell, who was unbeaten on 60 at the declaration.
"We know it becomes a lot easier to bat in the middle after about 20 overs when the ball goes a bit soft, so it was good to get up the order and challenge myself a bit more."
Bell is a far different batsman from the sometimes diffident figure who last toured Australia - and he knows it.
He is not wasting any time wondering whether the opposition do too, but is committed to his new-found positivity at the crease.
"Of course, I've learned a hell of a lot since four years ago,” he added.
"I've been through a fair bit, learned from my mistakes - and I've learned a lot from people like (batting coach Graham) Gooch and (team director Andy) Flower, who've come in over the last few years.
"I'm a tougher and better cricketer than I was four years ago, without a shadow (of a doubt). I haven't thought what Australia think about me."
Bell has noted the possible presence, on Test debut, next week of new Australia slow left-armer Michael Beer.
Little more than a month ago, he got off the mark on this tour third ball by hitting Beer for a six over long-off in the tour match against Western Australia at the WACA.
It was a shot entirely typical of the 'new' Ian Bell.
But at 28, he is wise enough to respect all international opponents - even if he does have a gameplan to dominate them.
"I don't think there'll be a conscious effort to try to do it again, but I always try to play as positive as possible,” he said. "He actually bowled okay, quite well in that game."
Australia captain Ricky Ponting has reportedly yet to meet Beer, who has just five first-class matches under his belt, or at any rate see him bowl.
"That is a little bit surprising," said Bell. "But that's not anything for us to worry about - it's for Australia to think about. Their changes are up to them.”