Bell elevates England
Ian Bell held firm as England advanced to 180 for three at tea on the first day of the fifth and decisive Ashes Test at The Oval here on Thursday.
Bell was 72 not out after a second session where England lost both captain Andrew Strauss (55) and Paul Collingwood (24) in a match they had to win to regain the Ashes but one where Australia needed only a draw to retain them.
Test debutant Jonathan Trott, a Warwickshire colleague of Bell's, was unbeaten on three after taking 12 balls to get off the mark.
England were 108 for one at lunch with Strauss, their best batsman in this series, 50 not out and Bell unbeaten on 41.
But in the third over after the interval England lost Strauss when the left-handed opener, dilligent in the morning session, limply hung his bat outside off-stump against Ben Hilfenhaus and was caught behind by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin.
Strauss's stand of 102 in 142 balls with Bell had taken England from 12 for one, following the early loss of Alastair Cook for 10, to 114 for two
His departure saw the experienced Collingwood come in at number four, one higher than his usual position.
However, with regular No 4 Kevin Pietersen out of the series with an Achilles injury following the second Test and England fielding a newcomer in Trott, in for dropped No 3 Ravi Bopara, Collingwood's promotion made sense.
Collingwood, along with the rest of England's victorious 2005 Ashes side, received the MBE (Member of the British Empire) medal despite appearing only in the Oval Test.
But Collingwood, rarely assured on Thursday, made 24 before slicing paceman Peter Siddle to Michael Hussey in the gully for 24.
England were now 176 for three.
South Africa born Trott avoided a golden duck on his debut by playing a solid forward defensive shot agaunst Siddle, a stroke cheered by England fans.
But it was Bell, much criticised for failing to make runs when England needed them most, who rather than Collingwood or Trott was best-placed to deliver the big innings around which a significant total could be built.
His leg-glanced four, his eighth boundary, off Ben Hilfenhaus saw Bell, promoted to No 3 in place of Bopara, to a 73-ball fifty.