Bell runs riot
Ian Bell was the chief architect of two record stands as England piled on the misery for South Africa at Lord’s.
Though Bell fell one short of a maiden Test double hundred, he shared England’s best partnerships against South Africa for the fourth - 286 with Kevin Pietersen - and seventh wickets.
For the latter, Bell put on 152 with Stuart Broad, who contributed a second successive Test half-century and career-best 76 in a total of 593 for eight declared.
South Africa reached seven without loss in reply before the rain which interrupted England’s innings forced the players off for a final time.
After Pietersen, who resumed on 104, had finally fallen for 152 this morning, Bell easily took over the mantle and played some serene shots among 20 fours and a memorable straight six off left-arm spinner Paul Harris.
An equally resounding blow down the ground, and along it, off Dale Steyn brought up Bell’s 150.
Bell, who was 75 not out overnight, timed the ball with precision throughout, prolonging the South Africa pace attack’s suffering - made all the worse for them by the knowledge captain Graeme Smith had yesterday invited his hosts to bat first.
The celebration for Bell’s eighth Test hundred was a rather pale imitation of the hyperactive leaps and punch of the air which Pietersen indulged in last night when he went to three figures.
Bell and Pietersen had already added 192 at start of play and by passing 197 they overtook England’s best for the wicket against these opponents, set almost 70 years ago by Wally Hammond and Les Ames.
It was an unequal struggle for the tourists on an easy-paced and true pitch.
But there was a hint of recklessness about the way Pietersen was beginning to bat even before he gave his first chance, on 133. Jacques Kallis was unable to hang on to a tough return catch from a full-blooded straight drive, but it was not a costly slip.
Pietersen eventually gloved an attempted pull behind off Morne Morkel, who finished with commendable figures of 4-121.
By the time Pietersen retreated, though, his 150 had come from his 176th ball, containing 20 fours and a six.
With the stand ended, Paul Collingwood fell for seven, caught at short-leg by Hashim Amla off Harris.
His departure came from the second delivery after a short rain break - and so it was with Tim Ambrose, who had made only four when the second ball of the afternoon found the edge and was well held low down at first slip by Smith off Morkel.
Broad would have been run out on 12 with a direct hit from backward point when Bell went in search of a faulty single just after reaching 150.
But the emerging all-rounder was soon demonstrating his rich promise and was a near equal partner with a series of fluent strokes, notably the back-foot drive off Makhaya Ntini which brought him his sixth boundary and his fifty.
It was only when he was bowled attempting to hit Harris to leg that he departed, but Bell continued either side of two breaks for rain to within sight of 200.
Harris, however, exacted revenge for the treatment dished out to him by having Bell caught and bowled, clinging on to a sharp return catch to his right as Bell used his feet once more.
That prompted the declaration from England captain Michael Vaughan and, though South Africa openers Smith and Neil McKenzie negotiated the 3.2 overs possible before rain forced the players off once more, it was one of the few positive aspects on a miserable day for the visitors.