Cricket ODI: England V South Africa

Bell flourishes before rain washes out play

The Warwickshire batsman looked back to his best after a poor showing in the Test matches

Bell flourishes before rain washes out play

It is surely tempting fate to have major cricketing fixtures played around the August bank holiday weekend so it was no surprise that the first ODI between England and South Africa was eventually abandoned after only 33 legal deliveries.

After a morning of on-off showers, a 24-over bash was scheduled to begin at 3pm. One ball slid wide from Morne Morkel’s hand and the players trooped off again, but it was only another shower and ten minutes later England’s innings resumed with a further over lost.

It was clearly time for the England players in the one-day squad who were excluded from the Twenty20 party to show the selectors what they were made of and both openers, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, fall into this category. At first it seemed the selectors’ decision-making was completely sound, as after three overs the pair had amassed all of three runs off the bat.

Cook released the pressure when he cover drove a four off the first ball of Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s second over, but it was Ian Bell who brought some much needed sunshine to the rain-swept SWALEC. In complete contrast to his poor form in the Test series against South Africa - in which he averaged 28.8 at a miserly strike rate of 27 - Bell exploded into life scoring 26 off 18 balls before play was abandoned for the day.

It was not so much the number of runs, but the manner in which he made them. There were two powerful sixes, one pulled square into the stands and the other driven over mid off into the sightscreen and a beautifully placed four, flicked off his hips into a narrow gap in the field. The Ian Bell of the one-day series against Australia had returned and one can’t help feeling he is more comfortable expressing himself at the top of the order in this environment.

One man who would have been less than happy with the day was Jonny Bairstow, who was listed on the original card, but omitted from the starting line-up in favour of the tried and tested batsmen who fared so well against Australia.

Following his triumph at Lord’s it can only be a matter of time before he is drafted into the team in place of whichever England batter slips up first. Provided the rain does not return to Cardiff tomorrow for Twenty20 finals day he, too, will have another opportunity to stake his claim.