Bell happy with Queenstown pitch
Centurion Ian Bell was pleased to play on a sporting wicket ahead of the Test series with New Zealand.
Bell hit 127 not out, without offering a chance, of England’s 357 for seven on day one of four versus a New Zealand XI at the Queenstown Events Centre.
His innings was impressive on a pitch offering assistance to seamers, as Jimmy Neesham proved with 4-65 after the hosts won the toss.
Bell, who prospered on flatter surfaces during the tourists’ one-day series win, appreciated the chance to familiarise himself with conditions England will likely face in the three Tests.
“I think it was difficult,” he said, praising opening batsmen Alastair Cook and Nick Compton in particular for laying a solid platform.
“I thought we played very well. The two guys up front had the tough time in that first hour - and we got through that. Then you want to cash in when it comes to the last session, which we managed to do.
“Some of the one-day wickets we’ve played on here have been absolutely flat. So to play on a wicket a little bit more in the bowlers’ favour was a good test - and it was nice to come through that.”
Seam and swing movement, especially with the new ball, suggested England have a useful score on the board already.
“There’s enough grass on there, a lot left on that pitch, so I think the new ball will be key,” added Bell. “There was just enough seam movement all day, and I hope it will be the same throughout the game.”
England’s number five had every right to be pleased with his own performance, but also made a point of congratulating Joe Root on another promising innings.
Root, who scored 49 of a 97-run stand for the fifth wicket, made a key batting contribution along with 60 from Cook and Matt Prior’s breezy 41.
“It went really nicely for me today, and I think we’re in quite a good position on this wicket,” Bell said.
“Joe played nicely, in a situation where we probably needed to get a partnership together - and we did exactly that.
“It’s good for us, me batting at five and him at six, the more we bat together and get familiar with each other’s games - strengths and weaknesses - the better.
“It’s a nice little spot for him there, certainly with Matty Prior just in behind him. He played very coolly and calmly.”
Neesham, an age-group contemporary of Root’s, was also impressed by the young Yorkshireman.
“I played against him at the Under-19s World Cup,” he said. “He was a good player then, and looks like he’s made a few more steps forward as well.
“He looked very solid out there, and obviously played very well in the one-day series as well. He does look a good player.”
The uncapped Neesham, who may yet find himself up against England in next week’s first Test as the yet unnamed seamer the hosts intend to promote to their full squad after this game, has great respect for the tourists - and appears a little fearful for his own country.
“I think they’re a very good team,” he said. “I think the Kiwis have probably got a bit to prove after the South Africa series.
“I think we’re going through a bit of a rebuilding phase at the moment, having lost a few senior players.”
For Bell, as well as the moving ball, the comings and goings at the airport next door were an added distraction but one he mastered happily in such picturesque surroundings.
“When I was in with Broady there, we were talking about the helicopters just floating over and keeping an eye on them rather than watching the ball,” he said of his unbroken stand with Stuart Broad. “But it’s a great place to play cricket.”