Perfect day rings true for Bell
Ian Bell spoke to the media after his century at Durban
Ian Bell and England were hailing a perfect day after Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann joined forces to help bowl the tourists to the brink of victory in the second Test against South Africa.
Broad’s three wickets for one run from 15 balls followed a Bell century which opposition fast bowler Dale Steyn described as “career-saving”, and combined with three scalps too for Swann to leave South Africa 76 for six at stumps on day four.
Still 156 behind after England decared on 575 for nine, the hosts have slim chances of keeping the series at 0-0 with two to play.
As for Broad, who was hit for six sixes in one over by Yuvraj Singh in the World Twenty20 at this venue two years ago, Bell confirmed it is entirely in character for him to respond so well.
“I remember sitting with him before the game started, joking about those (sixes),” said England’s latest centurion.
“I don’t think it really fazes him. He just seems to shrug it off and get on with the next day - that’s his character.
“He’ll keep running in for England all day, and it was a great example of how he is maturing. It was another very good display from a young bowler who is improving all the time.”
Swann played his part too, snaring the top three in the South Africa order as England began their attempt to bowl their hosts out inside four-and-a-half sessions after Bell’s ninth Test hundred had helped them pile up 575 for nine declared.
“Swanny’s been fantastic, making things happen straightaway,” said Bell.
“Then, against world-class players, Broady seems to ask questions all the time. If you put pressure on top of that, it’s an absolutely perfect bowling display.”
Bell conceded, meanwhile, that his 141 - his first hundred since making 199 against South Africa at Lord’s 17 months ago - was a hugely significant personal performance.
Asked whether Steyn may be right about the innings saving his career at the highest level, he said: “Definitely. I knew I was under the pump a little bit.
“I knew I needed an innings to save my place. There was no doubt about that.
"I hadn’t scored a hundred this year. It was nice to give us enough scoreboard pressure for our bowlers to go out and get six wickets.”
Bell’s hundred was hard won and notably celebrated - hands aloft and with a tug of his England crest - and his former Warwickshire team-mate Paul Harris made him sweat till the end, reminding him of his near miss when he fell caught-and-bowled to him one run short of that 2008 200.
“I had a bit of a chirp from ‘Harry’, in terms of reminding me of the 199 at Lord’s,” he said.
“It’s been a while; it’s been a hard 12 months for me, in and out of the side. But being involved in a team that’s got six wickets for 50 runs, the whole day has been just what we wanted.
“I don’t think we’ll get a much better day in Test cricket.”
For Steyn, pretty much the opposite is true.
“It’s probably been the worst day of my cricket career,” he said.
“That’s the brutal, honest truth. We were looking to bat a day-and-a-half to save the game but that hasn’t happened, and we find ourselves in a deep hole.
“Some (bad) weather is our best bet, but there are some remaining guys who can hang around to try and get us out of the mess we find ourselves in. You never know what can happen - cricket is a funny game.”