Bell blooms amid controversy
Ian Bell’s masterful innings of 159 was overshadowed when he was controversially run out and then recalled by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on another day of drama in the second npower Test at Trent Bridge.
Bell, moved up the order to number three in place of the injured Jonathan Trott, was at his effervescent best and his 15th Test century helped England reach 441 for six for a lead of 374.
The major talking point came, though, when the batsman was on 137 and was run out - amid much confusion - by Abhinav Mukund off the final ball before tea after he strode out of his crease, believing a four had been awarded when Eoin Morgan had flicked Ishant Sharma to deep square-leg.
However, Bell strode to the middle alongside Morgan after tea and it was later confirmed that coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss approached India's dressing room. The tourists subsequently held a team meeting and opted to withdraw their initial appeal.
The incident should not detract from a wonderful innings from the right-hander, who notched his fourth hundred in nine innings, in which he found the boundary rope with alarming regularity to frustrate India’s bowling attack.
Bell added 22 more runs to his score before he edged Yuvraj Singh to VVS Laxman in the slips and although he was the first of three batsmen to lose their wicket in a mini-collapse, Matt Prior and Tim Bresnan helped England finish the day with a flourish with an unbroken 102 partnership for the seventh wicket.
As well as the imperious Bell’s efforts, England were also indebted to half-centuries from Kevin Pietersen, Morgan and Prior as they scored over 400 runs today, with India toiling for large spells in the field.
Despite losing Alastair Cook last night, England had the momentum after Stuart Broad's hat-trick induced an India collapse and Strauss and Bell made a bright start this morning.
Strauss clipped Praveen Kumar through midwicket for three to get the ball rolling on a sunny morning in Nottingham, whilst Bell looked in formidable touch early on and cracked Sreesanth through point before punching India’s seamer down the ground for two boundaries.
Strauss was the more cautious of the two, although he stroked Praveen past mid-off for his only four and Bell took England past 50 after flicking Sreesanth off his pads to the square-leg boundary.
Just as it looked like England were settling into their stride, Sreesanth angled one across Strauss and the England captain’s slight nick was easily pouched by wicketkeeper Dhoni.
Bell continued his elegant innings by contemptuously hammering Yuvraj’s first ball - a long-hop - through midwicket and successive boundaries through the leg-side off Ishant Sharma saw the Warwickshire batsman reach his fifty.
Bell and Pietersen continued to add the singles and the former’s leg glance for four off Ishant took England into three figures.
The 28-year-old sensed a hundred of his own and continued his relentless assault on India’s bowlers with a back-foot cut off Harbhajan Singh through point for yet another four.
The uncharacteristically reserved Pietersen brought up his first boundary with a paddle flick from India’s off-spinner behind square off his 52nd ball and after the lunch interval the right-hander crunched a four down the ground off Ishant, who was put away for three boundaries in the next over by the Surrey batsman to bring up the 100 partnership.
A glorious cover-drive for three off Harbhajan took Bell into the nineties and Pietersen was rewarded for overcoming his struggles prior to lunch when he moved to 50 with a single off Praveen.
Bell, playing arguably the innings of his life, dreamily drove the same bowler for four, despite Sreesanth’s despairing dive at deep cover, before bringing up his hundred off just 129 balls with a clip off his legs for two shortly after.
India’s predicament was summed up by a misfield from Sreesanth at deep square-leg, who fumbled Pietersen’s pull over the ropes – much to bowler Harbhajan’s chagrin – just after England had passed 200.
However, Sreesanth would have the last laugh when he ended Pietersen’s innings for the second time in this match as the batsman, on 63, drove loosely and feathered through to Dhoni.
Morgan looked settled almost straight away and struck back-to-back fours through the third man region.
England were cruising at this stage, despite the loss of Pietersen, although their position was undermined by the contentious episode that followed.
In an incident that is likely to be go down in cricketing folklore, Praveen stopped Morgan’s flick from reaching the deep square-leg boundary and, after the batsmen had ran three, Bell walked down the pitch
However, Praveen threw the still-live ball to Dhoni and the captain, in turn, passed along to Abhinav, who knocked the bails off at the striker's end.
The players left the field to boos at tea when Bell was given out after a lengthy delay but that gave way to louder cheers when it had emerged India had sportingly allowed Bell to resume his innings.
The tourists may have been regretting that decision when Morgan took the attack to India’s bowlers after tea and struck another five fours before a towering straight six off Harbhajan brought up a finely crafted half-century.
Bell continued the assault and reverse-swept a full toss from Yuvraj for his 24th four, but the slow left-armer had his revenge when England’s centurion, looking to cut, could only top edge to Laxman at first slip.
Morgan followed for 70, just two balls after India had taken the new ball, when he edged an outswinger from Praveen to Dhoni.
The medium-pacer then accounted for Trott, who made just two, with a rising delivery that was gloved to Rahul Dravid at slip.
It had earlier been revealed that England’s usual number three had suffered a sprained AC joint when he fell awkwardly while fielding yesterday afternoon.
Praveen was on a roll and thought he had Bresnan trapped leg before two balls later with a full-pitched delivery, but umpire Marais Erasmus was unmoved.
Prior and Bresnan helped England survive the brief collapse and took their side’s lead past 300, with the former plundering a series of attractive fours as well as a pull over fine-leg for six following an unsuccessful bouncer from Sreesanth.
Prior became the fourth Englishman to pass fifty, from just 38 balls, with a fine cover-drive off Ishant for four and the wicketkeeper-batsman followed that up by stroking through midwicket in the same over.
India were indisputably tiring and Bresnan, who was just as impressive as Prior, crunched Ishant through the covers for his ninth four to bring up the 100 partnership for the seventh wicket.
England added 187 runs in the final session and Prior will resume on 64 tomorrow alongside Bresnan, who needs just another three runs for his half-century.