Bell hits top note in opening role audition

Julian Harris
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ENGLAND batsman Ian Bell has staked his claim to remain at the top of the order for the tourists’ upcoming one-day series in India, despite the team succumbing to a demoralising defeat at the hands of an India A side yesterday.

Bell, who opened the batting alongside Kevin Pietersen, top scored with 91 runs in Delhi, yet England were bowled out for 175 – more than 50 runs short of their target of 229, calculated by the Duckworth-Lewis method.

“I’ve enjoyed opening, 100 per cent, it’s gone really well in the last three series,” said the Warwickshire man. “We’ve got plenty of options but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed and something hopefully I do consistently now. It’s nice to be at the top of the order and get some time in the middle.”

Captain Alastair Cook missed yesterday’s warm-up match through illness, but could return for tomorrow’s day-night tie against Delhi. The first of England’s five ODIs is played on Friday in Rajkot, with Cook expected to lead the side. He could open with Bell, shuffling the mercurial Pietersen down the order.

“Kev played really well actually,” Bell said of Pietersen, despite his partner being out for only 19 runs.

“It’s a shame he got out but I guess at the top of the order, with the fielding restrictions, you have to take the odd risk. But he was going really nicely and it was a shame to lose him.”

After Pietersen fell at the end of the seventh over, England lost momentum. Former Ashes hero Ashley Giles, coaching the team for the first time, had to watch Samit Patel, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Craig Kieswetter and Chris Woakes all be dismissed for a combined 17 runs.

England’s tail wagged briefly with respective knocks of 22 and 15 from Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn, yet they were bowled all out for 175 after 36 overs. India’s 39 overs ended on 224-4. The game had originally been delayed for bad light.

Elsewhere in Delhi yesterday, India beat Pakistan by 10 runs to prevent a whitewash in the three-match ODI series, which the tourists won 2-1.