Bell tolls on day one of warm-up
Ian Bell struck a chanceless unbeaten century to stamp England’s authority after they were put into bat by a New Zealand XI at Queenstown.
Bell closed the first day of four, one on which there was significant assistance for seam bowlers, with 127 of the tourists’ impressive 357 for seven in their only warm-up for next week’s first Test.
Alastair Cook’s 60, 49 from Joe Root and Matt Prior’s 41 were other significant contributions at the Queenstown Events Centre.
Bell had made a point yesterday of stressing the importance of this game as England seek to add victory in a three-match series, starting in Dunedin next week, to their one-day international and Twenty20 triumphs. Today, it was his bat doing the talking with a 182-ball hundred.
Nick Compton came through 12 testing overs against the new ball but was the first of four wickets for first-change Jimmy Neesham - departing for 21, five runs short of a sixth fifty stand in 10 attempts with Cook since they began their partnership in India three and a half months ago.
After a slow start, Compton soon appeared to be growing in confidence, in gloriously sunny conditions at this breath-taking location in the lee of a row of mountain peaks known as The Remarkables.
There was nothing quite so eye-catching in the early strokeplay, and Compton had to wait until the 10th over for his first four - a trademark extra-cover drive off left-arm seamer Neil Wagner. However, Compton was soon undone by a little extra bounce from Neesham and gloved behind.
Jonathan Trott could manage just a single, England's only single-figure score of the day, before becoming Neesham's second caught-behind victim as he looked to drive.
Then Neesham added a prized third wicket, Kevin Pietersen aiming to cut and brilliantly caught at first slip by Hamish Rutherford high above his head.
Cook completed his half-century in 69 balls, having hit 10 fours, just before lunch but got little further.
He was dropped on 56 by Neil Broom off Mark Gillespie, the second slip unable to close his hands before an edge hit him flush on the forehead and left him with mild concussion.
Broom had to go off, but was expected to recover in time to bat, and Cook soon followed him when he edged behind off Wagner.
The captain's was the only wicket lost in an afternoon session which saw Root take another chance to impress.
He took 27 balls over his first four runs, before his patience paid off with two fours in the same over from Neesham - a pull past midwicket and a clip off his legs in the same direction.
By tea, Root had almost caught Bell up - but after his partner then passed 50, the young Yorkshireman fell one run short when he played up the wrong line and lost his off stump to part-time medium-pacer Carl Cachopa.
Bell made no mistake, either in that stand of 97 for the fifth wicket or one of 60 with Prior in just 12 overs for the sixth.
Prior dominated, as he so often does, until he cut Neesham to point for 41. But Bell survived to complete his century against the second new ball, driving Gillespie for his 13th four past cover.
Bell saw Chris Woakes, uncapped in Tests, depart to Wagner before Stuart Broad kept the number five company until stumps in a 39-run stand.