Ian bell got to his 21st Test century at Southampton © Getty Images
Ian bell got to his 21st Test century at Southampton © Getty Images

Ian Bell made most of the placid track at Southampton when he smashed his 21st Test century in the ongoing third Test match against India. Despite his poor run in international cricket in the past couple of months, Bell had applied himself well and batted cautiously play a crucial innings for himself and his side. Devarchit Varma has more.

Before the start of the third Test match against India at Southampton, England camp was a worried lot. The new era had begun on a disastrous note and almost every single senior cricketer in their side was grappling with issues more than one. Alastair Cook was having a disastrous run, while none of their senior players such as Ian Bell and Matt Prior were making any significant contributions with the bat. The bowlers weren’t performing up to their potential. Everything possible that could go wrong for England did.

In this adversity, it was Cook who kept his foot down and said enough is enough. The left-handed batsman, going through the worst phase of his career, started putting emphasis on the basics and applied himself on the wicket. He watched the ball carefully till the end, and did not play any lose stroke. Then luck came along his way as Cook got a lifeline by Ravindra Jadeja. The England captain made most of the lifeline and went on to score 95, before a needless shot off Jadeja ended his resistance. Cook might have fallen short to the landmark, but he ensured that England make strong recovery after being beaten in the second Test at Lord’s.

There was one similar factor between Cook and Ian Bell. Cook got a lifeline early in his innings and so did Bell. When India had taken the second new ball, the debutant Pankaj Singh bowled an out-swinger that drifted down the leg, but swung sharply towards the middle-stump and hit Bell just above the knee-roll. The Indians appealed for a leg-before, but the umpire in no condition would have given that out.

The television replays showed that Bell was out. However, the decision was in his favour and there was no Decision Review System (DRS) assistance for the Indians. It was one of those deliveries that one does not get to see often. Bell was sharp enough thereon. He did not give the Indians any more chance in the remaining 10 overs in the day and fought his way to 16 not out.

When play resumed on the second day, there was no stopping Bell. The right-handed batsman revelled in conditions that suited batting. The sun was out, the pitch remained flat and Indians gifted him with few lose balls that he is famous for putting away easily. Bell even came down the track once to smash Jadeja for a six over the bowler’s head.

Bell excelled at home last season during the Ashes mainly because he used any width given to him outside the off (late-cut being his favourite stroke), and one major reason why he failed in the series that followed Down Under was because Australians did not allow him to score in that region. However, Indians were not disciplined in this regards in the third Test, which allowed Bell to score freely.

Bell achieved the feat in the 135th over of the innings, with a huge six off Jadeja to bring up his hundred. Bell announced that he is back to form as he smashed overall 21 runs from Jadeja’s over. This was also his first century since the excellent series that he had at home last year against Australia.

England have stamped their authority so far in this game, and have made a strong recovery riding on the knocks produced by Cook, Ballance and Bell. This might as well help them to turn around the tables and put India under pressure in the remainder of the series.

Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)