Relieved Bell feared for his England place

By Justin Palmer CARDIFF (Reuters) - Throughout a career in which he has amassed nearly 7,500 runs and scored 22 test centuries Ian Bell has faced questions over his England credentials, and by his own admission his place was again on the line for the Ashes series. New England coach Trevor Bayliss might perhaps have been scouring a list of possible replacements when the batsman made just one on the first day of the first test against Australia on Wednesday -- extending his poor run. Since scoring 143 in the first test against West Indies in Antigua in April, Bell had totalled 56 runs in nine test innings before finding some much-needed form with 60 in England's second innings on Friday. His efforts helped England set Australia a daunting 412 to win and he was as relieved as anyone to be back among the runs. Asked if he was worried about his form, Bell said it had "been a testing period for me". "You have to dig deep sometimes, look right inside and I had to work really hard. There is no doubt I have been concerned. "This game is an incredible game. It's testing you all the time. From that hundred in Antigua then all of a sudden it's been tricky. "It's nice to play something like my best today, make a contribution and start to feel my rhythm." Bell, playing in his 111th test, scored three centuries the last time the Ashes were contested in England in 2013 and he no doubt had thoughts of another after advancing to 60 with 11 boundaries. He then played down the wrong line to be bowled by Mitchell Johnson, although his efforts were backed up by Joe Root (60) with useful contributions from Adam Lyth (37), Ben Stokes (42) and Mark Wood (32 not out). Asked if Australia had any chance of chasing 412 for victory which would be an Ashes record, Bell said he "thought England had a score to win a test match". But he cautioned: "In Ashes cricket anything is possible. I'm sure they'll back themseleves to get close, if not knock it off so we know we have got a lot of hard work to do tomorrow. "If we bowl like we did in the first 10 overs today then we'll put ourselves in a great position." Australia lost their last five wickets for 44 runs in the morning, conceding a first innings deficit of 122. (editing by Alan Baldwin)