Playing his sixth Test against Bangladesh, Bell helped England to a competitive 275 for five when bad light stopped play after Kevin Pietersen [ Images ] (64) had succumbed to a left-arm spinner for the 17th time since March, 2008.
Bell said he had not been thinking about his average.
"I haven't really looked at it," he told reporters. "For me I missed out at Lord's and the situation today needed someone to get stuck in and that's what I tried to do.
"Bangladesh have made us work hard. In the four Tests we have played them this year they have not been a pushover," he added, when it was suggested that he had exploited an opportunity against Test cricket's weakest team.
"I think I needed that innings because I have played some nice innings but not when it really mattered. If I get the opportunity in Australia [ Images ] later this year. innings like this one will be there for me to draw on in tough situations."
Such an innings will also help his cause with senior batsman Paul Collingwood [ Images ], rested from this series, set to come back into the team for the next test against Pakistan in July.
Bangladesh, who need to win to draw the two-match series after losing at Lord's, started brightly when recalled pace bowler Shafiul Islam removed Andrew Strauss [ Images ] (21) and Jonathan Trott (3).
Strauss pushed forward to a ball just short of a length on off-stump and edged to second slip Imrul Kayes. Trott, following his 226 at Lord's, was then bowled for three after an inside edge on to his pad.
Another recalled player, left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak, had Alastair Cook [ Images ] caught at slip for 29 with his first ball.
The day then developed into the "Pietersen Show", which ended in a familiar fashion.
Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons had promised on Thursday that his spinners would test Pietersen's "vulnerable" technique and they did not let him down, bowling 52 of the 83 overs on a turning, slow pitch.
Pietersen had appeared intent on disproving Siddons and before lunch he advanced down the pitch and drove Shakib through mid-on for four while still in single figures.
He reached his half-century with a single, after two boundaries from an off-drive and a pull in the same 36th over, and shortly afterward he slogged Razzak over long-on for a six.
But, once again, Pietersen was dismissed by left-arm spin while looking in control.
Shakib looped the ball into the batsman, who was advancing down the pitch, and managed to get the ball to turn away and beat the bat for wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim to complete a routine stumping. Shakib pumped his fist in celebration.
"In hindsight, it's easy to look back but that ball did turn quite big," Bell added. "Kev hit some great shots and gave us momentum when we were up against it and when you play positively things can go against you."
From 153 for four, Bell took on the task of salvaging the England innings. He put on 70 with Eoin Morgan [ Images ] and an unbroken stand of 52 with Matt Prior [ Images ] (21 not out). Bell had also added 70 with Pietersen.
Bell waited patiently for the loose ball and was quick to punish anything wayward. He struck Razzak for a straight six while the field was in and finished with nine boundaries.
Prior struggled for fluency and was fortunate to survive. He edged Razzak between first slip and the wicketkeeper at catchable height when on 12 and escaped an lbw appeal on 18 courtesy of umpire Billy Bowden when playing back. Replays suggested the ball would have struck leg-stump.
England gave a Test debut to pace bowler Ajmal Shahzad in place of the injured Tim Bresnan [ Images ]. The Bangladesh players were wearing black armbands after a fire that broke out on Thursday in the capital Dhaka killed at least 114 people.
England (1st innings):
A. Strauss c Kayes b Shafiul 21
A. Cook c Siddique b Razzak 29
J. Trott b Shafiul 3
K. Pietersen st Rahim 64
I. Bell not out 87
E. Morgan c Jahurul b Shahadat 37
M. Prior not out 21.
Extras: (b 6, lb 4, w 2, nb 1) 13.
Total: (5 wickets; 83 overs) 275
Fall of wickets: 1-44 2-48 3-83 4-153 5-223
Bowling: Shahadat Hossain 17-2-66-1 (1nb, 1w), Shafiul Islam 14-2-37-2 (1w), Mahmudullah 7-1-15-0, Shakib Al Hasan 24-3-80-1, Abdur Razzak 21-3-67-1
To bat: Shahzad, Swann, Anderson, Finn
Bangladesh: Tamim, Kayes, Siddique, Jahurul, Ashraful, Shakib, Mahmudullah, Rahim, Shafiul, Razzak, Shahadat