ENGLAND'S top scorer Ian Bell admitted to mixed feelings after making his fourth half-century of this winter's Ashes but once again failing to go on to three figures in Sydney today.
Bell made 71 out of England's first-day 234-4, after the tourists chose to bat first in their bid to avoid the ignominy of a first Ashes whitewash since 1920-21.
England's No3 shared a stand of 108 with Kevin Pietersen before both went in quick succession - leaving captain Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood to bat through until bad light brought an early close on a day also shortened by rain.
Bell reflected with some satisfaction as well as just a tinge of regret.
"It did a bit - and credit to Australia, because I thought they bowled really well," he said.
"There was a period when Kevin and I were out there and they made it hard work - which we had to get through."
As for his own effort, Bell conceded he once again had not quite finished the job.
"It is something I will look back on and be pretty disappointed," he said.
"I wanted to go on and score hundreds here. Even though I am pleased with the way I have played, it is disappointing not to go on and get a hundred again.
"It is a nice problem to have, getting past 50 - but it is something I need to look at, because the top players in the world do go on."
Bell reported the England camp largely satisfied with Day One - while Australia coach John Buchanan said: "We would have liked to have got one or two more wickets."
Veteran fast bowler Glenn McGrath struck twice in a match which will see the end of his and Shane Warne's glorious careers, as well as that of Justin Langer.
* Report - Page 34.