Bell century ensures first blood to England


Ian Bell announced his return to the ODI team with a superb century as England trounced the West Indies by 114 runs in Saturday's series opener at the Rose Bowl in Southampton.

Ian Bell heralded his return to the ODI team with a superb century as England trounced the West Indies by 114 runs in Saturday's series opener at the Rose Bowl.

The clash took on extra significance after it was announced earlier in the week that Chris Gayle, placated by an agreement with the WICB, would return to XI. However, his comeback was ultimately scuppered by a belated foot injury that ruled the big-hitting left-hander out Saturday's proceedings entirely.

Visiting captain Darren Sammy's decision to bowl first under cloudy skies after winning the toss was the right one and enjoyed early success as Alastair Cook was caught behind for a duck off the third ball of the day.

Seamer Ravi Rampaul's early breakthrough, though, soon took a backseat to the dominance of Bell and Jonathan Trott. While it has been argued that the ODI XI should not feature both of them, the talented right-handers complemented each other superbly through their 108-run alliance for the second wicket.

Bell's straight hitting, including a lofty six off Andre Russell, and Trott's cheeky shot selection, exemplified by the reverse-sweep, laid a sound foundation. Bell was muted in the celebration of his half-ton, for he knew the job was only half finished, particularly after the fall of Trott for 42.

Ravi Bopara offered little support in the middle order, but Eoin Morgan cherished his return to the team with a steady 21. While it wasn't the most fluid knock of the left-hander's career, it promised more for the remainder of the three-match series.

Having reached three figures from 95 deliveries, a jubilant Bell was somewhat more measured across his next 26 runs en route to equaling his highest score in ODI cricket. Fittingly, the 126 he scored against India in 2007 came at the same ground.

Dwayne Bravo's return to the attack proved the end of the fine knock. Swiping at a slower delivery, the right-hander only managed to loop an easy catch to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin, who finished with four for the innings.

Recovering from a nasty blow to his chin during practice that required stitches and eager to prove himself as a worthy successor to limited-overs retiree Kevin Pietersen at the top of the knock, Bell couldn't have hoped for a more impressive vigil.

The collective nag of the seamers and the spin of Sunil Narine momentarily threatened to derail England's quest for a formidable total, but Craig Kieswetter and Stuart Broad promptly responded.

The wicketkeeper-batsman and aspiring all-rounder clouted an unbeaten 43-run stand inside six overs to propel the tally to 288 for six. It was ultimately far more than enough.

The Windies' pursuit, thwarted by the absence of Gayle and further hampered by Darren Bravo's groin injury, never really got off the ground despite Dwayne Smith's cavalier effort.

Deputising for Gayle at the helm of the order, the makeshift opener picked up on the form that brought him a breezy 96 in the tour fixture against Middlesex in powering his way to 56 off 44.

The use of Ramdin at first-drop didn't work and a middle order void of the services of the injured Darren Bravo seemed disjointed. Tim Bresnan, who finished with figures of four for 34, struck with great regularity on either side of a rain break that delayed play for an hour and was ably supported by his fellow seamers. England, though, wont' be amiss in giving Jade Dernbach a game ahead of Bresnan or Steven Finn come the second match.

Bravo eventually did bat, out of necessity, but his discomfort wasn't needed for an extended period as the tail-enders dropped around him. While spinner Graeme Swann prepared the coffin door with the wickets of Sammy and Rampaul, Bresnan drove in the final nail thanks to the removal of Narine to close a weak reply of 172 all out.

Triumph with all of 14.2 overs to spare was duly England's to celebrate, with Bell rightly named Man of the Match award for his telling 117-ball stay at the crease, 12 boundaries and that sweet six off Russell included.

The second ODI gets underway at The Oval in London on Tuesday and will be followed by the final match of the series at Headingley in Leeds on Friday.