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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 March 2008, 07:07 GMT
Strauss and Bell find timely form
Tour match, Dunedin, day 3 (match drawn): New Zealand XI 271 v England 131 & 325-7

Andrew Strauss (left) and Ian Bell
Centurions Strauss and Bell are delighted after finding form

Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell both scored centuries as England drew their final warm-up ahead of the first Test against a New Zealand Invitational XI.

Strauss retired on 104 and Bell was unbeaten on the same score as England reached 325-7, making up for their poor 131 first-innings total.

The pair forged a fourth-wicket stand of 110 to help the tourists reach a comfortable 227-3 at lunch.

But the match was abandoned at tea on the third day because of heavy rain.

Strauss virtually assured himself of a recall for next week's first Test in Hamilton with a patient display over four and a half hours.

It was a welcome knock for the Middlesex batsman, who was dropped for the pre-Christmas tour to Sri Lanka because of his failure to convert starts into big scores and has had a run of 25 Test innings without reaching three figures.

Seb {GoDJ}

His previous England century was a knock of 116 against Pakistan at Headingley in August 2006, and he looked determined to rediscover some form after missing out in the first innings when resuming on 55 overnight.

But Bell got into a better rhythm as the shortened session progressed and hit his ninth boundary of his innings off seamer Iain O'Brien to bring up his half-century.

Bell continued his impressive form in the series with a chanceless innings, including 15 fours and a six, but one-day skipper Paul Collingwood failed to get some valuable practice ahead of the Test, departing for a fourth ball duck.

Strauss, who hit 15 boundaries in his 241 minutes at the crease, admitted he was relieved to post a big total.

"I felt I needed a score to justify the faith that was put in me, more than anything," the left-hander said.

I felt I needed a score to justify the faith that was put in me, more than anything

Andrew Strauss

"You can put yourself under too much pressure but it was a case of transfering what's been going on in the nets out into the middle and having the right mindset.

"I managed to get that a little better over the last couple of days. It just needs you to be mentally right and I think that's the only thing that wasn't quite right previously."

With both Strauss and Bell scoring well, it means the only members of the top six not to have scored a half-century in the warm-up matches are captain Michael Vaughan and all-rounder Collingwood.

Strauss added: "It's so crucial early on a tour to get time in the middle. We've been on tours previously where batsmen have struggled in tour games and then you're almost playing catch up once the Test match comes along.

Andrew Strauss celebrates his century
Strauss completed his ton after resuming overnight on 55

"It's good that Belly and I got some runs and hopefully the other guys will make hay once they get into the Test match."

England are expecting both Collingwood and left-arm seamer Ryan Sidebottom, who are both suffering with right hamstring strains, to recover in time to push their claims for a Test spot.

Strauss added: "I think we're getting there. The hard part of the tour is arriving, building up slowly and suddenly you have to sharpen up.

"Maybe we weren't as sharp as we could have been at the start of this game and we paid the price for it, but it was good to see as the game wore on that we learned from our mistakes and got better as the game wore on.

"Hopefully we can take that momentum into the first Test."

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