Ian Bell salutes Joe Root after key partnership in Queenstown warm-up
Ian Bell backed Joe Root's claims for a place in the Test team after the first day of England's warm-up match.
Last Updated: 27/02/13 10:03pm
Bell stroked a chanceless 127 not out whilst rising Yorkshire star Root hit 49 as England closed on 357-7 in Queenstown.
Root now looks almost certain to start in the first Test, having impressed in the one-day series in New Zealand and on his Test debut in India.
Despite England's impressive total Bell insisted the first day of the four-day match had been a genuine contest between bat on ball on a green wicket, making Root's efforts all the more eye-catching after he came to the wicket with the tourists struggling on 124-4.
"It went really nicely for me today, and I think we're in quite a good position on this wicket," Bell said.
"Joe played nicely, in a situation where we probably needed to get a partnership together - and we did exactly that.
"It's good for us, me batting at five and him at six, the more we bat together and get familiar with each other's games - strengths and weaknesses - the better.
"It's a nice little spot for him there, certainly with Matty Prior just in behind him. He played very coolly and calmly."
Bell said the middle order batsmen appreciated the dogged efforts of openers Alastair Cook (60) and Nick Compton (21) who survived a testing opening hour against the new ball.
"I thought we played very well. The two guys up front had the tough time in that first hour - and we got through that. Then you want to cash in when it comes to the last session, which we managed to do.
"Some of the one-day wickets we've played on here have been absolutely flat. So to play on a wicket a little bit more in the bowlers' favour was a good test - and it was nice to come through that."
"There's enough grass on there, a lot left on that pitch, so I think the new ball will be key. There was just enough seam movement all day, and I hope it will be the same throughout the game."
Jimmy Neesham (4-65) was the stand-out bowler for the hosts and he too was impressed by Root. "I played against him at the Under-19s World Cup," he said.
"He was a good player then, and looks like he's made a few more steps forward as well.
"He looked very solid out there, and obviously played very well in the one-day series as well. He does look a good player."