Bell stars in record-breaking innings

After scoring the first century of the domestic cricket season, State Wellington Firebirds skipper Matthew Bell says an international recall is in the back of his mind, but he needs to sustain scores which would make it hard for the selectors to ignore him.

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Opener Bell scored 146 in his side's first innings against State Canterbury Wizards in a State Championship match at the Basin Reserve in the capital.

With James Franklin (69) and Luke Woodcock (58 not out) making half centuries, Bell had the luxury of declaring his side's innings at 428-8, giving his bowlers an hour to attack Canterbury.

At stumps on the second day of the weather-affected match, Canterbury were 383 runs behind at 45-2, having lost openers Todd Astle for one and Michael Papps, whose runs all came from boundaries, for 16.

Andrew Ellis, seven, and Shanan Stewart, 21, were the not out batsmen.

Bell resumed this morning on 88 and quickly went to three figures, posting his 18th first-class century for Wellington, in his 79th match for the province.

It is the most centuries scored by any player for one province in New Zealand, surpassing the 17 registered by Bert Sutcliffe for Otago in the 1940s to 1960s.

Bell, who scored his maiden first class century at the age of 17 in his debut season with Northern Districts in 1994, said it had taken some time to get over not making the touring squad to England this year and then missing out on a BLACKCAPS contract.

Recalled after a six-year absence for last summer's home series against Bangladesh, Bell started promisingly with a century in his comeback innings in Dunedin but then his form dropped off dramatically.

He recorded three ducks in four innings against the touring England side and needed a half century in his last knock in the third test to lift his series average to 19.50.

"It took a couple of months but I have got over it," Bell said.

By maintaining his form and putting the runs on the board, he could "make it pretty hard" for the national selectors to ignore him as they wanted some runs at the top of the order.

"I'll cross that bridge if we get to it in terms of national selection but at the moment, I'm enjoying leading Wellington," he told Radio Sport.

Franklin and Bell put on 123 runs for the fourth wicket before Franklin fell for 69, caught by Iain Robertson off a Michael Davidson delivery.

Leighton Burtt (2-87), Davidson (2-68) and Hamish Bennett (2-57) were the pick of the Canterbury bowlers with Burt finally ending Bell's 356-minute stay at the crease after facing 252 balls after inducing the opener to loft a catch to Roberston.

Franklin capped off a successful day by claiming the wicket of Papps, and Andrew Lamb trapped Todd Astle leg before wicket off the 13th ball he faced.

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