Sporting gesture praised by Bell after drama at Trent Bridge
Close: Second Test, day three, Trent Bridge
Match score: England 441 for 6 (Prior 64*, Bresnan 47*, Bell 159, Pietersen 63, Morgan 70) and 221 (Broad 64); India 288 (Dravid 117, Yuvraj Singh 62, Laxman 54, Broad 6 for 46) Full scorecard
Session score: England 187-3 England win session
One of the great Test innings, and one of the great sporting gestures, lit up another memorable day – in a series already chock-full of memorable moments. What will happen next in the second Test at Trent Bridge? After three days of unrelenting excitement, the only certainty is that this match will not be drawn… or is it?
Batting conditions did ease on the third day, after England resumed on 24 for one and still 43 runs in arrears. But Ian Bell’s brilliance was such that India’s bowlers looked shell-shocked that someone could bat so fluently and effortlessly on a surface that had seen 21 wickets go down on the first two days.
As the pitch got slower, so England’s run rate got quicker. Bell dominated the first session, surging from his overnight nine to 84 not out to contribute 75 of the 106 runs scored before lunch for the loss of Andrew Strauss. Kevin Pietersen, content to play a supporting role, did accelerate latterly in his 63 as he and Bell added 162 for the third wicket but, until Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior and Tim Bresnan attacked tiring bowlers after tea, Bell’s batting was on a different level.
Bell’s 159 was his 15th Test hundred, in his 67th Test, and coming at No 3 and in the context of such a pressure situation, it was the finest innings of his career. The purity of his strokeplay also set the tone for a remarkable day in which England scored 417 runs from 90 overs, for the loss of just five wickets. England’s lead is now a massive 374 runs.
The bizarre ‘run out that never was’ which occurred from the last ball before the tea interval initially saw Bell given run out for 137 as he and Morgan were walking from the field after mistakenly assuming that a Morgan leg glance had hit the boundary rope despite some acrobatics from Praveen Kumar.
Kumar himself seemed to think the ball had gone for four – surely the crucial piece of ‘evidence’ in the incident – before rising from the turf to fling the ball in. Dhoni, who gathered the throw and then instructed Abhinav Mukund, the short leg fielder, to remove the bails after tossing the ball to him, decided during the interval to withdraw India’s appeal – apparently after he and Duncan Fletcher, India’s former England coach, had received a request to do so from Strauss and Andy Flower, their opposite numbers.
If there is anything about the incident which raises an uncomfortable question – rather than praise for a noble reaction – it is whether England’s captain and team director should have been approaching the Indians at all. Technically, Bell was out and it should have been India’s decision alone to withdraw the appeal. What next? India asking England to withdraw their appeal ‘in the spirit of the game’ when Harbhajan Singh is given out lbw when he gets a big inside edge – as happened during Stuart Broad’s hat-trick yesterday?
Boos from a full house crowd turned to cheers – and a standing ovation – when Bell dramatically returned to the field after tea and it became obvious that India had effectively re-instated the Warwickshire batsman. “It was brilliant by India, and I think the right decision was made in the end,” Bell said at the close.
India’s sportsmanship cost them another 22 runs from Bell’s bat, and allowed him to take his fourth wicket alliance with Morgan to 104. When Bell was finally out, smartly caught at slip as he aimed a cut at Yuvraj Singh’s left arm spin, England’s lead had stretched from 187 (at tea) to 256.
Kumar struck twice, with his second and tenth deliveries with the second new ball, to send back Morgan for 70 and Jonathan Trott – whose sore shoulder prevented him from having a net before play – for just 2. At 339 for 6, India might still have been in the game.
Prior and Bresnan, however, brought another thrilling day’s cricket to an end by surely snuffing out any remaining Indian hope with a rollicking unbroken partnership of 102 in 16 overs. Prior went to fifty in just 38 balls and ended on 64 not out from 55 balls, while Bresnan’s unbeaten 47 took him only 66 balls.
Shot of the day: Could have been any of Ian Bell’s 24 fours, all the product of exquisite timing, but an early clip to the mid-wicket boundary off Sreesanth was perfection
Ball of the day: poor old Jonathan Trott, emerging at number seven just in time to face the second new ball, edged a brute from Praveen Kumar to first slip
Sporting moment of the day: I think we know the answer to that one
Dozy moment of the day: Bell (and Morgan) for not keeping on running prior to the ‘run out’ incident. The umpire had not signalled four and, if the ball had not hit the ropes, why not try to run four…. or five?