Kemar Roach had made the first breakthrough when he squeezed one through the defences of Nick Compton to end a second-wicket stand of 49 with Michael Carberry. The Lions, though, were scoring reasonably comfortably under rare sunny skies as Carberry and Bell made further strides towards the West Indian total.
Carberry was strong through the off side but it was Bell who caught the eye. He asked to play in this match after injury forced Ben Stokes to withdraw and, following his hundred last week against Durham, he looked much more like the player who dominated last summer rather than the one who struggled throughout the overseas tours of the UAE and Sri Lanka.
He punched neatly down the ground off the quick bowlers and used his feet to launch Shane Shillingford over long-on for six. At one stage when facing Shillingford he had to pull out of his stance when Andy Flower, the England team director, who is at the ground with the other selectors to discuss the squad for the first Test walked behind the bowler’s arm. Flower immediately raised his arms in apology and Bell had a smirk on his face.
However, it was the West Indians who were smiling next as they made significant inroads into the Lions batting. Rampaul produced a testing spell from the Wantage Road End and removed Carberry with a delivery that lifted on off stump to take the edge to first slip. With the first ball of his next over Rampaul put himself on a hat-trick when he nipped one back between Bell’s bat and pad to highlight that plenty of help remained for the quick bowlers.
Samit Patel, who is technically the man in possession of a Test place after the Sri Lanka tour, drove one pleasant boundary before falling in horribly lazy fashion when he chipped a catch back to Shillingford. James Taylor, the Lions captain, had to fight hard to survive through to lunch with Jonny Bairstow for company as the match shaped to be a low-scoring affair to following the trend for the English season.