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Controversial Bell puts England in charge

Ian Bell scored an immaculate if controversial 159 that helped put England in command against India at the...

Cricket action under sunny skies. Picture: stock.xchng

Ian Bell scored an immaculate if controversial 159 that helped put England in command against India at the close of the third day of the second test at Trent Bridge on Sunday.

England, who were 24 for one overnight, closed on 441 for six in their second innings, an overall lead of 374. India already need to complete the highest run chase to win a Nottingham test, England's 284 for six against New Zealand in 2004.

The day featured a dramatic U-turn after England trailed India's first innings by 43 runs at the start of the day, when Bell was on nine. Eoin Morgan chipped in with 70, Kevin Pietersen made 63, while Matt Prior was 64 not out with Tim Bresnan on 47 at the close.

Bell was at his stylish best in registering his 15th test hundred as he guided England from adversity into a position of strength. But a freak run out on the stroke of tea proved the day's talking point.

Morgan clipped Ishant Sharma to square-leg and the batsmen completed three runs and then assumed the ball had crossed the boundary as fielder Praveen Kumar gave the impression it was in fact four runs, although he never signalled.

As umpire Asad Rauf waited for confirmation whether it was a four or a three, Kumar casually returned the ball and Abhinav Mukund eventually took off the bails while Bell was out of his crease, walking back to the pavilion for tea.

After some discussion, with the batsmen by now standing on the edge of the field, Bell was given out to the widespread disapproval of the crowd and the England team, who are 1-0 up in the four-match series.

When the umpires and the Indians returned after tea to a chorus of boos from the 15,000 crowd, Bell then appeared to everyone's surprise.

It later transpired that during the tea interval the England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower approached their Indian counterparts and asked if they wished to reverse their appeal.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni told Strauss he would consult his team before returning with an agreement to allow Bell to return.

SPORTING GESTURE

Technically Law 27.8 states that such a decision has to involve the umpires and must happen on the field of play. The fact it was on the last ball before tea may have meant there was room for some discretion.

When the news was announced to spectators during a drinks' break in the evening session, the India team received a standing ovation from the appreciative Nottingham crowd.

"I was just meandering off for tea," Bell told a news conference. "I was naive and it was a stupid thing to do.

"The right decision was made in the spirit of cricket."

It was a sporting gesture although it may not go down well with every Indian as Bell and Morgan went on to add a further 69 runs, of which Bell's share was 22.

That incident will be remembered as one of the more bizarre moments in test history but for the present, it could have a serious bearing on the result of the match as England led by just 187 runs at the time.

The controversy should not overshadow the quality of Bell's 206-ball innings which included 24 boundaries.

India struggled to contain his array of elegant and perfectly timed strokes to anything that was slightly off-line, especially several delicate late cuts through a vacant gully region. He has now struck four centuries in his last nine test innings.

The runs after Bell's innings ended were painful ones for India. Morgan faced just 88 balls for his 70, bringing his 50 up with a six, while Prior also accelerated mercilessly, managing his runs from 55 deliveries. Prior has added 102 with Bresnan so far.

Earlier, Strauss's poor run of form continued as he was caught behind for 16 and he has now failed to score more than 32 in his last eight innings.