Bell hits out. -Photo by AFP

CARDIFF: England's Ian Bell shone before rain washed out the first one-day international against South Africa at Cardiff on Friday.

Only 5.3 overs were bowled, after an initial delay of several hours, following South Africa captain AB de Villiers's decision to field first.

England were 37 for no wicket when fresh rain finished off the match with opener Bell 26 not out off 18 balls, including two sixes and two fours.

Alastair Cook, England's one-day captain, was 10 not out.

Fast bowler Morne Morkel's three overs cost 19 runs and left-arm paceman Lonwabo Tsotsobe conceded 18 in 2.3.

Just days after South Africa dethroned England as the world's top-ranked Test side, following a 51-run win at Lord's, they arrived in Cardiff knowing a 2-2 draw or any kind of series victory in this five-match contest would see them replace their hosts at the summit of the one-day standings too.

No sooner had Morkel opened proceedings with a legside wide, then the umpires -- in a match already reduced to 23 overs per side -- took the players off to a chorus of boos from a frustrated crowd before re-emerging minutes later.

When play resumed, left-hander Cook -- who had led England to wins in their last 10 completed one-dayers -- struck Tsotsobe through the covers for four.

Bell, not included in England's squad for the defence of their World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka next month, then produced a couple of extraordinary shots.

He went down the pitch to loft Morkel for six over the legside and, three balls later, advancing to drive him for another superb six over mid-off.

In all 16 runs came off the fifth over.

There was just time for Bell to flick another boundary, off Tsotsobe, before more rain saw the match, in which South Africa batsman Dean Elgar was making his debut, abandoned.

England wicket-keeper Craig Kieswetter, who opens in Twenty20s and was a member of the side that won the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean two years ago, praised Bell's innings by saying: “The way Belly played was pretty outstanding.”

The series continues at Southampton on Tuesday.

England: Alastair Cook (capt), Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Ravi Bopara, Eoin Morgan, Craig Kieswetter (wkt), Tim Bresnan, Chris Woakes, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, James Anderson

South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt/wkt), Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith, Dean Elgar, JP Duminy, Francois du Plessis, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe

Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI) and Richard Kettleborough (ENG) TV umpire: Simon Taufel (AUS) Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)

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