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Bell leads England's charge

2011-06-19 15:14

Southampton - Ian Bell pressed home England's advantage over struggling Sri Lanka on day four of the third and final Test at the Rose Bowl, moving to 78 not out to give the hosts a commanding 107-run lead at lunch on Sunday.

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Bell swept past the half-century mark for the fifth consecutive Test and closed in on his 14th test century as England, 1-0 up in the series, added 96 runs to their overnight total of 195-4 to go in on 291-5.

Eoin Morgan (26) was also in the middle by the end of the session, with nightwatchman James Anderson the only wicket to fall when he edged Chanaka Welegedara to wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene for a brisk 27 off 33 balls.

Up against a lifeless bowling attack under light cloud cover, England was in cruise control as the tourists faced up to a series defeat in breezy Southampton.

Resuming on 39, a chopped four through gully got Bell off the mark on his ninth ball and he reached his 11th half-century in the last 15 Tests with a similar-looking cut to the boundary.

The Warwickshire batsman struck the shot of the day, a regal drive played with exquisite timing through extra-cover for four, to bring up the 250 as he continued to deal dismissively with Sri Lanka's fast-medium bowlers. He struck an unbeaten 103 in England's first-Test victory in Cardiff and followed that up with 52 and 57 not out in the draw at Lord's.

Anderson, resuming on 0, moved to within seven runs of his test-best score - chiefly thanks to consecutive fours through the offside off Thisara Perera in two separate overs - when he edged to Jayawardene, who took his third catch of England's innings.

The nightwatchman's 45-run partnership with Bell added to the frustration of the tourists.

The dismissal brought up Morgan, the last of England's recognised batsmen, to the crease and his patient knock on the same ground that he hit centuries against Pakistan and Australia in one-day internationals last year further sucked the life out of the Sri Lankans. The 50-run partnership between Bell and Morgan came up just before lunch

Left-arm paceman Welegedara had team-best bowling figures of 2-69.

AP