Tuesday 2 January 2007 

Mixed Emotions For Bell After Battling 71

England batsman Ian Bell experienced mixed emotions after making a battling 71 on the first day of the final Ashes test on Tuesday.

Bell's dogged knock helped England reach a respectable 234 for four, but he was bowled by a fine delivery from Glenn McGrath to miss out on a century for the fourth time in the series after passing 50.

"There is a little bit of frustration but I got a pretty decent delivery so I can't grumble too much," Bell told a news conference.

"McGrath bowled really well today, there was a bit in the wicket all day and we had to really work hard and graft for our runs."

Bell batted over three hours for his 71 runs but said that was mainly down to the quality of bowling by the experienced McGrath, playing his final test, and fellow seamer Stuart Clark.

"They didn't give us a lot to hit and you have to credit to Australia for bowling really well," the 24-year-old said.

"McGrath is all about patience, he just tests out your technique all the time.

"I'm sure it didn't look pretty but that's what you have to do sometimes."

The right-hander still managed to hit eight fours, mainly with crisp strokes off his legs, before McGrath nipped a ball back off the pitch to bowl him through the gate.

"I knew what he was trying to do to me and he got me in the end I guess," Bell said. "I felt it was a good wicket for leaving the ball but the one that got me I was trying to play."

Bell struggled in the last Ashes series, making just two half-centuries in England's 2-1 win over the Australians on home soil.

He worked hard on his technique and mental approach to batting, however, and was rewarded with centuries in three successive tests against Pakistan last year which have helped lift his average to over 43.

"I feel as if I've improved myself unbelievably as a player since the last Ashes series," he said. "Test cricket is all about working out ways to survive against the best bowlers and I feel as if I am doing that now."


© Reuters 2007