WARWICKSHIRE captain Ian Bell notched a classy century to grind down Hampshire on the third day of the Specsavers County Championship game at the Ageas Bowl.
England batsman Bell showcased every shot in the book on a sun kissed south coast as he completed his 51st first-class ton, a day after he turned 34.
Bell, who was complemented by Chris Woakes’ half century, took his Warwickshire side into a lead of 81 going into the final day.
It was not all plain sailing for the visitors as they lost both openers in 4.2 overs – to skiddy fast bowler Fidel Edwards.
The West Indian managed to boom one back to Ian Westwood’s legs, who failed to play a shot to a ball that would have clipped off stump in the third over.
Two overs later Varun Chopra tried to clip through the on-side but was pinned in front to leave Warwickshire ten for two.
Bell, along with Jonathan Trott, added 49 for the third wicket before the latter chased a wide one from James Vince to edge to Sean Ervine at first slip.
Sam Hain also looked to build a big partnership with his skipper but could also only put on 49 with Bell before following a legside Ryan McLaren delivery behind – before Tim Ambrose chipped to Tom Alsop at mid-wicket.
Bell meanwhile, now joined by Woakes, looked unfazed by any of the Hampshire bowling – who were one light after debutant Reece Topley’s broken hand from day one.
He reached 50 in 68 balls but laboured towards three figures, needing over double the balls to reach the 218 ton.
The passage from 90 to 100 was the most watchful needing 44 before rocking onto his back foot and pulling through mid-wicket to start the season in the best way, on a ground he has bagged two Test hundreds.
Woakes, who brought up his fifty in 128 deliveries, was finally the partner to stick around, the pair putting on 151 before Woakes fell lbw on 66 to Edwards to the finally ball of the day.
Earlier Hampshire had been bowled out for 202, to collect a single batting points, as Warwickshire took the two quick wickets needed – after rain prevent play during the whole of day two.
South African top scorer McLaren played on for 85, before Edwards skied one to fine leg on the ropes – both out to Rikki Clarke.
While a positive result looks unlikely on day four, the weather is set to stay fair for a second day in a row.