England make a stuttering start to Ashes deciding Test

BATTING hero Ian Bell insists the decisive fifth Ashes Test with Australia is still delicately poised despite England failing to capitalise on favourable conditions at The Oval.<br /><br />Captain Andrew Strauss won the toss on a batting wicket but saw his side struggle to 307-8 at the close despite a battling 72 from Bell, who was promoted to No3 following the disastrous innings defeat at Headingley a fortnight ago.<br /><br />The total is still some way short of what many believe England will need to stand a chance of winning the must-win Test, but Bell insists the unpredictability of The Oval pitch means his side are still in with a shout of reclaiming the Ashes urn.<br /><br />&ldquo;After day one, it&rsquo;s pretty much 50-50,&rdquo; the Warwickshire batsman said. &ldquo;I guess with the starts we&rsquo;ve had we could have been in a slightly better position but it was quite a hard day. It didn&rsquo;t feel like your usual Oval pitch, where you get a little bit more pace and bounce. Sometimes when you get in it&rsquo;s just a lovely place to bat. But it wasn&rsquo;t quite like that.&rdquo;<br /><br />Despite failing to register a century, Bell top-scored on a frustrating day for England where the top order all played themselves in but failed to register an imposing total.<br /><br />Opener Strauss hit 55, while debutant Jonathan Trott added 41 on debut before being run out by Simon Katich when well set. Andrew Flintoff, however, playing his final Test match, could only make seven as the England middle order toiled again under Australia&rsquo;s seam attack.<br /><br />All eyes will now be on the England bowling attack today with Strauss&rsquo;s men looking to take advantage of the already deteriorating conditions and skittle the tourists out for an equally limited amount.<br /><br />The wicket has already baffled both Strauss and Australia&rsquo;s Ricky Ponting, who opted against using the extra spin option, but turning conditions could lend themselves to England&rsquo;s Graeme Swann, the only recognised spinner. Swann&rsquo;s dismissal with the final ball of the day, earning Peter Siddle figures of 4-63, left hopes hinging on the unbeaten Stuart Broad to lead the tail and push the advantage this morning.