Southampton: Ian Bell marked his return to England's one-day side with a stylish century as they beat the West Indies by 114 runs under the Duckworth/Lewis method in their series opener here on Saturday. Man-of-the-match Bell, given the task of filling the opener's spot vacated by Kevin Pietersen following the South Africa-born batsman's retirement from white ball internationals, responded with 126 in an England total of 288 for 6 made after the hosts lost the toss.
Dwayne Smith looked to be making up for the absence of big-hitting opener Chris Gayle whose much anticipated international return after 15 months out following a spat with West Indies cricket chiefs was delayed by a shin injury. However, when Smith was out for 56 it was the start of a slump that saw the tourists lose their last nine wickets for 77 runs.
West Indies, who were 127 for 5 off 23 overs when rain stopped play, were set a revised target of 287 in 48 overs after two were lost during the 71-minute stoppage. But the tourists, who had high hopes of winning this series after a 2-0 defeat in the preceding three-match Test campaign, finished on 172 all out as England went 1-0 up with two to play ahead of Tuesday's match at The Oval.
Tim Bresnan, who led England's attack with four wickets for 34 runs, finished the match with more than 14 overs to spare when he had last man Sunil Narine well caught by diving wicket-keeper Craig Kieswetter. Bell's hundred was only the 30-year-old's second in his 109 one-day internationals, with his 126 not out against India in 2007 also made here at the Rose Bowl.
And this innings came just a day after Bell's participation was put in doubt when he was struck a severe blow on the chin while batting in the indoor nets. But, overcoming fears of a broken jaw, Bell helped the hosts recover from the shock of losing opening partner Alastair Cook, England's one-day captain, for a third ball nought.
There had been concerns England would struggle for quick runs at the top of the order in the absence of Pietersen, who finished his one-day career with back-to-back hundreds against Pakistan in Dubai in February. But Bell, dropped from that series, took 16 runs off the sixth over from Andre Russell. First ball, he drove the seamer over his head for a straight six and next ball a fierce square-cut flew over point for four.
Two balls later Bell pulled Russell for four and followed up by driving a him through mid-off. Bell was out when he top-edged a slower ball from seamer Dwayne Bravo and wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin took his fourth catch of the innings to leave England 216 for 5.
The Warwickshire batsman's previous best as a one-day opener was the 77 he made against Australia in a 2007 World Cup match in Antigua. West Indies, after the early loss of Lendl Simmons, saw Smith drive fast bowler Steven Finn for four and next ball pull him for six.
But his entertaining 44-ball innings came to an end when he edged an intended pull off seamer Bresnan to Kieswetter. Bresnan then made it two wickets for three runs in five balls when Ramdin, promoted because Darren Bravo was unable to bat at number three due to a groin strain, was lbw for 22.
Dangerman Kieron Pollard then fell for just three, well caught by a diving Eoin Morgan at backward point following a fierce cut off Broad. After the rain break, Marlon Samuels holed out off Anderson and wickets continued to fall steadily as England completed a commanding victory.