Glamorgan 220 (Poysden 5-29) and 55 for 0 lead Warwickshire 250 (Bell 106*, Trott 57, van der Gugten 4-65) by 25 runs
When a cricketer is the wrong side of 35 it only takes a few low scores for the inevitable questions to arise, even if, out of respect, no one quite dares ask them out loud. It has been that way with Ian Bell these last couple of years, when even he must have wondered if the days when runs came so easily might never come back.
How gratifying it must have felt then, in the evening session here, to be raising his bat in the direction of the loyalists in the R E S Wyatt stand, with a hundred on the board for the first time in a Championship match for more than two years. He almost had one last season, out for 99 against Surrey here in April, but otherwise it was an awful year.
He finished it with an average of just 26.20 as Warwickshire were relegated from Division One. It was his poorest average for a first-class season in England since 2002, the last time he failed to finish an English summer without a first-class hundred. It is a measure of how worried he was that, in August, he gave up the club captaincy, a role he had accepted so proudly and with such enthusiasm at the start of the previous year.
Bell is not the player he once was, of course. Otherwise he would still be playing for England. But here was proof that the qualities that had served him well in making 22 Test centuries in a wonderful career have not entirely deserted him. For a time, with Jonathan Trott at the other end, it might have almost been like the old days.
Indeed, a classic Bell-Trott partnership might have been the story of the day, as it was at Chester-le-Street only 10 days ago when the two shared a stand of 202 in the One-Day Cup against Durham, Bell making an unbeaten 145.
That possibility disappeared before lunch in the event, when Bell called for a quick single after playing the ball firmly on the onside only for his partner to have doubts, stop-starting only a couple of strides into the run and then failing to make his ground as David Lloyd threw in from square leg.
Bell’s fault? Fifty-fifty really. Otherwise it was a near flawless innings from the master craftsman, cautious at times as it needed to be with much responsibility ultimately resting on his shoulders, but still illuminated with some classic, beautifully-timed strokes on both sides of the wicket, bringing him 12 boundaries before he ran out of partners.
Nonetheless, in the broader context, there was a feeling that Warwickshire had not made the most of a good position in the first session. Trott had looked to be in good fettle, too, and would doubtless have made a few more than his 57 had he remained.
Warwickshire were 99 for 2 before his demise but he and Bell apart, no one made more than 16 until Chris Wright made 29 as he and Bell added 69 for the eighth wicket and the first innings lead was a slender 30.
On a pitch – used for a one-day match last week – that yielded five wickets for Warwickshire’s underemployed leg-spinner, Josh Poysden, on Saturday and three today for Salter, Glamorgan’s off-spinner, batting last might be no picnic. A decent Glamorgan total could give the Division Two leaders a stiff test as they chase a fourth consecutive win, and openers Nick Selman and Jack Murphy have given them a pretty good start.