Bell delighted to draw first blood
England batsmen of yesteryear were accustomed to facing West Indies ‘chin music’, but Ian Bell today made the tourists dance to his tune.
Bell, who overcame a nasty blow to the chin in training yesterday, fired his second limited-overs hundred as the hosts went ahead in the NatWest Series with a 114-run Duckworth-Lewis win at the Ageas Bowl.
Given Bell’s injury, it was surprising that he did not have to face more short-pitched bowling from the Windies. As it was, the elegant right-hander looked at ease in compiling an exquisite 126 from 117 deliveries in an impressive total of 288 for six.
West Indies, chasing a revised 287 from 48 overs, slumped to defeat after opener Dwayne Smith fell for a 44-ball 56 as Tim Bresnan returned an impressive 4-34.
Bell said: "I was quite lucky that all the precautions from the backroom staff yesterday got me in a good frame of mind.
"I pretty much thought I was going to play from last night anyway. It was quite easy coming to the ground this morning, knowing I was going to play regardless.”
Bell was struck by a throw-down in the indoor nets and, at first, did not know where he was bleeding from.
It was at first thought he may have sustained a fracture, but the 30-year-old escaped with 10 stitches.
"It had gone quite deep to the bone, and there were a few layers of stitches - and then the 10 (on the surface),” he added.
"It was weird, because it hurt more by my ear really rather than where it actually hit me.
"Then when the blood was coming down, I didn't really know where from - so it was a strange one really."
Following Kevin Pietersen’s limited-overs retirement, Bell returned to the top of the England order for the first time since last year’s World Cup.
He extended his impressive Test form of three fifties in four innings, helping the hosts recover from the loss of captain Alastair Cook for nought in the first over.
"Probably, in the past, I've tried to hit the ball too hard sometimes and lose my shape - whereas today I did exactly as I'd play a Test match, sticking to the shots I know well,” Bell said.
"Obviously, there's a bit more intent in one-day mode. But I didn't try to slog - which probably in the past I've been guilty of doing.”
Cook was able to reflect on a fifth consecutive ODI in which an England opening batsman has reached three figures. He began the sequence with back-to-back tons in Abu Dhabi before Pietersen did likewise in Dubai.
Those scores underpinned a 4-0 whitewash of Pakistan and today’s win made it five ODI victories in a row.
“I don’t want to give away all our trade secrets. It would be nice if it can continue,” Cook said.
“We’ve made a real point about the top four and I don’t know why it’s happened five in a row.”
Cook was also pleased with England’s bowlers, who limited their opponents with 172 all out in 33.4 overs.
The hosts’ five-man attack of James Anderson, Steven Finn, Bresnan, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann were all principally selected for their bowling whereas the Windies deployed several all-rounders.
“It’s worked for us in the past,” Cook added. “We’ve gone in with that tactic of trying to play to our strengths.
“It makes it very hard for the opposition to get way from us. It’s bloody hard to do that against four genuinely quick bowlers and a world-class spinner.”
Smith briefly gave West Indies hope but, from 95 for one in the 16th over, his departure prompted a collapse of nine wickets for 77 runs.
"We had to spend time at the crease, and that didn't happen,” the 29-year-old said.
"I just went out there and backed myself; I know my areas I can score from, and I just wait on them to make the mistakes.
"I've got older and really understand my own game now. I go out there and I'm just free.”
Smith was opening in place of Chris Gayle, who was ruled out by an injury to his left shin.
The tourists were hampered by Darren Bravo’s groin strain, meaning the specialist batsman came in at number nine rather than three.
There was no immediate news of either injury ahead of the second of three ODIs at the Kia Oval on Tuesday - a contest Smith was already targeting victory in.
"It didn't happen for us, so we've just got to rebuild for the next game,” he added.
"The boys will be up for it for the next game, and we just need to move on from here. We can't worry about this now.”