Bell finds batting touch as England turn screw on India

BATSMAN Ian Bell preferred to focus on how his first century in almost a year contributed to England’s overall dominance of India on day two of the third Test yesterday rather than any personal milestones.

Bell struck 167 to pass the 7,000 Test-run mark, sharing century stands with Gary Ballance and debutant Jos Buttler, the Lancashire wicketkeeper making an immediate impact with a blistering 85 from just 83 balls.

England declared having scored 569-7, leaving India to navigate 14 overs before the close, with James Anderson removing opener Shikhar Dhawan cheaply to leave the tourists reeling at 25-1.

Bell had only passed 50 four times in his last 19 innings and his knock was the first time the 32-year-old had reached three figures in the international arena since the fourth Test of last summer’s Ashes series.

But having followed the example of his skipper Alastair Cook, who made 95 on the first day, by returning to form, Bell was also quick to praise the contribution of his colleagues.

“Every time you get a hundred for England it’s special,” said Bell. “I just enjoy trying to get as many as I can and contributing.

“Individual things are nice along the way but the most important thing was we had a good day as a team.

“Gary Ballance’s hunger for runs is incredible. He’s also a really calm presence which is what we need in the team right now.

“The way Jos [Buttler] came in at the end there, that was amazing.”

England are in a strong position to avenge their second-Test defeat at Lord’s and level the series at 1-1, with Bell urging his side to turn the screw on India when play resumes this morning at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

“We talked about getting first innings runs and it’s probably the first time we’ve done it properly, and how the batting unit wanted to do it, which was nice,” added Bell.

“Our target then was two wickets before the close but if we get two first thing we can put some real pressure on India.

“The guys bowled really well and if we keep banging away at full length there’s a little bit there.”

South Africa, meanwhile, are back on top of the world Test rankings after returning from Sri Lanka with a series win.

The Proteas drew the final Test in Colombo to win the series 1-0 and regain the No1 spot from Australia, with England fifth.