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Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008 20:00 UK
England v South Africa 1st Test

Ian Bell
Bell scored 215 for Warwickshire in the build-up to the first Test

England batsman Ian Bell admitted his exceptional knock of 199 in the first Test against South Africa could hardly have arrived at a better time.

Bell, who had made only one century in his previous 27 Test innings, helped the hosts towards their 593-8 declared on day two at Lord's.

"Hopefully that can turn a corner for me," said the 26-year-old.

"The best players in the world go on and get big hundreds. I wanted to go make a big impact in this series."

Despite finding an element of form in the recent Twenty20 match and one-day series against New Zealand, Bell's highest score in his last four Test innings was 21 not out.

He returned to his county, Warwickshire, and crafted a superb 215 in a four-day match against Gloucestershire on 1 July and has carried that form into the first of four Tests against South Africa.

"It's been a tricky month in the Test team so it's nice to get a good score today," said Bell, who had been singled out as the England batsmen the South Africans fear the most by former fast bowling great Allan Donald before the start of the series.

If I had turned up at the game I would have taken 199 so I'm not too disappointed

Ian Bell
"I was pretty desperate after the one-dayers to go and play for Warwickshire and try to get as many runs as possible.

"I scored a double-hundred and it was a great way to prepare for this Test match. The weather has meant we didn't get outdoors much during the preparation and it was nice to spend time in the middle."

Bell shared a stand of 286 with Kevin Pietersen, who made 152, and then a 152-run partnership with Stuart Broad, who recorded a Test-best score of 76.

On day one, Bell started quickly before playing second fiddle as Pietersen raced towards his century.

"To bat with Kev is great and when he plays like that it's a pretty good spot to watch from," said Bell.

"It's difficult to match him, certainly when he's playing like that, so for me it's a matter of staying with him and building the partnership.

"We knew if we could get as big a score as possible in the first innings we'd be in a good position."

BBC Sport's Oliver Brett

England will look to take early wickets after bad light and rain brought play to an end with South Africa 7-0.

Bell is confident the England seamers can make headway where the South Africans toiled and is refusing to be downbeat despite falling one run short of his double century.

"The pitch was perhaps a little bit slow," he said. "Their guys like to bang it in and it didn't come up as quick as they would have liked.

"Hopefully our guys can pitch it in good areas on a good length and hopefully swing the ball tomorrow.

"If I had turned up at the game I would have taken 199 so I'm not too disappointed. It would have been great to score a double-hundred here at Lord's and get my name on the board but I'll take 199, certainly coming into this game.

"There are three days left, hopefully we can come out, bowl well and put pressure on South Africa, that's what we're here for.

"We're here to get 20 wickets and it will be a great effort if we do."

South Africa coach Mickey Arthur hailed Bell's superb efforts.

Arthur, who highlighted Bell's form in the build-up to the match, joked: "I put the kiss of death on him didn't I?"

"We wanted to put him under pressure, and we gave him four half-volleys to kick-start his innings.

"That wasn't part of the script. But hats off to him, he came into the game under pressure and he delivered."

see also
Pietersen jubilant after century
10 Jul 08 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
10 Jul 08 |  Cricket
Pietersen and Bell excel
10 Jul 08 |  England
South Africa in England in 2008
14 Nov 07 |  Cricket

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