Strauss, Bell put England in box seat

Published: Monday, March 24, 2008, 11:50 [IST]
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Napier: Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell made merry of Kiwi attack on the placid McLean Park strip with tons as England charged into a commanding lead in the third and final Test here on Monday.

Strauss, who was dropped from English side for their last winter tour to Lanka, made his comeback in an emphatic fashion crafting a fine unbeaten 173 (25X4s) while Bell made a strokeful 110 (17X4s, 2X6s) as tourists finished the third day's play at 416/5 in their second essay and stretched their overall lead to the massive 501 runs.


The duo forged a mammoth 187-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Strauss' 337-ball innings has 25 boundary hits while Bell hit 17 boundaries and two sixes in his 167-ball knock.

Tim Ambrose was the other not out batsman on 28.

Daniel Vettori was the pick of Kiwi bowlers with three for 135.

Strauss batted throughout the third day to make his first hundred in 31 attempts, his highest score at this level and the highest score by any batsman on this ground.

He surpassed his previous highest score of 147, made against South Africa in 2005, and the highest individual total of 160 at McLean Park.

He had brought up his 11th Test century with a cover drive off Chris Martin for his 16th boundary shortly before tea.

The 31-year-old's last Test century was the 116 he scored against Pakistan in Leeds in August 2006.

Bell looked in superb touch from the word go, driving Jeetan Patel gloriously through cover off front and back foot either side of a towering six down the ground off Vettori before lunch.

He dominated the scoring 88 brisk runs in the post lunch session, with Patel and Grant Elliott, twice, dispatched for successive boundaries as an increasingly ragged home attack allowed the run-rate to soar.

Vettori broke the partnership just minutes into the final session when he had Bell caught Sinclair. Collingwood played a little cameo of 22 in 19 balls with two hits to fence and one over it. The English all-rounder's entertaining knock ended when he top-edged a slog sweep off Vettori to give the bowler a return catch.

Ambrose accompanied Strauss to the close, capitalising on a rare Taylor drop at second slip off Patel when he had made nine to reach 28 not out.

Strauss left the field to a standing ovation, sporting the sort of broad smile which was a rarity in past one year or so.

Earlier, KP failed to repeat his first innings heroics when his full-blooded cut off Vettori landed straight into Ross Taylor's safe pair of hands at first slip.

New Zealand won the first Test by 189 runs in Hamilton while England drew level with 126-run win in the second Test in Wellington.

The hosts have left with a daunting task to save the Test leave alone win. Kiwis highest successful run chase was 324 for 5 against Pakistan at Christchurch in 1994.

thatsCricket (with inputs from Agencies)

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