WARREN Bell delivered a classy display of swing and seam bowling to give Eastern Province the upper hand on the opening day of their CSA Provincial three-day cricket match at Union yesterday.
Bowling with a south-easter at his back, Bell vindicated skipper Colin Ackermann's decision to bowl first with a superb haul of 6/44 as Free State tumbled to 137 all out in their first innings.
In reply, EP batted steadily to reach 166/3 at the close, with Eddie Moore ensuring they remained in the driving seat with a fine 78.
The visitors did not help their cause when skipper Juanre van Wyk was run out with a brilliant direct hit from mid-off by Ackermann, although they did a reasonable job of recovering to 92/3 just before lunch.
But in the over before the break, fast bowler Anrich Nortje grabbed his second wicket when he bowled Obus Pienaar and after the interval, the Bell show took over.
He took five of the remaining six wickets, including the important scalp of Free State top-scorer Patrick Botha.
The lefthander produced some attractive strokes in his knock of 42, although he was lucky to be let off when a snick off Sisanda Magala flew untouched between first and second slip. Bell had him caught by wicketkeeper Lee-Roy Walters, a signal for a lower-half innings collapse which saw the last five wickets tumble for 16 runs.
The EP seamer stood on a hat-trick at one stage, but failed to achieve that rare occurrence, although his final return would have left him more than satisfied. He was close to his personal best of 7/56.
Nortje lent good support with his return of 2/22 and the rest of the attack made sure the pressure was never released on the Free Staters.
In their reply, Moore was impressive at the top of the order as he continued his fine form this season with some scintillating strokes. The lefthander is able to combine attacking flair with a sound defence and hit 12 fours and a six in his 78 off 114 balls.
He was more than a little annoyed when he let his focus lapse for just a moment, a swing to leg off a shortish delivery from Gino Vries only resulting in an edge to wicketkeeper Lefa Mosena.
Earlier, Kelly Smuts, who has been struggling to get going this season, grafted hard for 74 minutes and hit one spanking four through the covers. But he was disappointed to be trapped in front for 12 by Romano Terblanche.
Ackermann and James Price were then put through some fiery overs from Duanne Olivier, with Price twice suffering let-offs in the slips cordon.
However, they made sure the bowlers' efforts were not wasted and stayed together until the end. Their main aim will be to pile on the agony for the Free Staters today.