Bell holds England together

Leggie Smith's late burst helps Australia reduce hosts to 287/7

Bell holds England together

Ian Bell joined an elite trio on Thursday with his third Ashes century in successive Tests after England had lost three cheap wickets on the opening day of the second Test against Australia at Lord's.

Bell, who came to the crease with England floundering at 28 for three on a perfect batting pitch at the height of a British heatwave, reached his 19th Test hundred with 14 boundaries in exactly five hours.

He was finally out for 109 and joins Jack Hobbs (twice), Wally Hammond and Chris Broad as the only England players to score centuries in three consecutive Ashes Tests.
Bell's dismissal was the first of three wickets in the space of 31 minutes for Australian leg-spinner Steve Smith who reduced England from 271 for four to 289 for seven at the close of a sun-drenched day.

After his resolute second innings century in the first Test victory at Trent Bridge, Bell was in delightful touch from the start of his innings.

He drove sweetly, cut deftly and after tea took three boundaries off a James Pattinson over, including two exquisite drives off the back foot through the covers.

He was finally out when Michael Clarke turned to Smith's occasional leg-spin and was rewarded when Bell edged the final ball of his first over to the Australian captain at slip.
Smith followed up by tumbling to his left to take a return catch of Jonny Bairstow (67) who had batted confidently on the ground where he scored an impressive 95 against South Africa last year and helped Bell add 144 for the fifth wicket.

Bairstow had enjoyed a huge slice of luck when he was comprehensively bowled by Peter Siddle on 21 but won a reprieve when television replays showed the Australian paceman had over-stepped by a matter of millimetres. Matt Prior (6) became Smith's third victim, slashing hard outside his off-stump and edging to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Ryan Harris was the pick of the Australian bowlers, finishing the day with three for 43 after coming in for Mitchell Starc in one of two changes to the side who lost the first Test at Trent Bridge by 14 runs.

Shane Watson made the initial breakthrough, beating Alastair Cook (12) with his second delivery from a full length.

The ball struck Cook's front pad straight in front of the stumps and the England captain decided against a review.

His partner Joe Root (6) did go to the third umpire when he was struck on the pads by Harris but England lost a review. Kevin Pietersen fell four balls later to Harris for two and England were suddenly in trouble.

Jonathan Trott, who had started confidently with boundaries on both sides of the pitch from his first two balls, struck the ball firmly, hitting 11 fours.

But with the attack apparently at his mercy, he was out scooping a simple catch off Harris to Usman Khawaja, who replaced Ed Cowan at number three in the Australian lineup, at deep square-leg.

Smith's efforts late in the day meant the Australians, who laboured throughout the afternoon session with little reward, ended the day with honours at least even on a pitch still promising plenty of runs.

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