England No. 3 Ian Bell completed his first Test double-century yesterday and rose to the top of the year’s run-scoring list on the third day of the fourth and final Test against India at The Oval.
Bell, who resumed on 181, brought up his 200 with his 20th boundary, a deft glance to leg off Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. His previous best was 199 against South Africa at Lord’s two years ago.
He was finally out for 235, LBW to Suresh Raina, after more than eight hours at the crease, putting him ahead of teammate Alastair Cook on the run-scoring list this year.
At lunch, England were 591 for six, with Ravi Bopara on 44 and Matt Prior on 18, including a reverse swept four.
Bopara, who has replaced the injured Jonathan Trott for the final two Tests of the English summer, failed in his only innings at Edgbaston where England went 3-0 up in the series and took over from India as the world’s top ranked side.
Nightwatchman James Anderson was the first batsman to depart yesterday, caught for 13 at second slip by VVS Laxman off Sreesanth.
Sreesanth followed up in his next over with the wicket of Eoin Morgan for one, caught behind by Mahendra Singh Dhoni on the day he was named as the England captain for a one-day match against his native Ireland.
Bopara scampered two runs off his first delivery, an inside edge which trickled into the leg side, then neatly leg-glanced his 13th delivery to the boundary.
Bell was again in exquisite touch, playing a glorious on-drive for four before he departed after missing a sweep against Raina’s occasional off-spin.
He had stroked 23 fours, hit two successive sixes off leg-spinner Amit Mishra and has now compiled 950 runs this year with five centuries at an average of 118.75.
The 29-year-old Warwickshire right-hander, once hailed as the best young batsman in England, struggled early in his Test career and there were doubts as to whether he had the mental resolve to succeed at the highest level.
However, he is now making the scores worthy of his undoubted talent, with England’s Kevin Pietersen saying on Friday: “Belly’s been magnificent over the last 12 to 18 months, he’s grown as a person, he’s matured so much.”
“I love the fact he’s scoring runs so fluently. He’s so pleasing on the eye when he’s batting,” the former England captain added.