Ian Bell last night admitted that his naivety caused the run-out incident which threatened to cast a dark shadow over England's Test series against India. Bell was only allowed to resume a brilliant innings – having been given out for 137 – because M S Dhoni, the visiting captain, agreed to withdraw his side's appeal during the tea interval.
Dhoni and his team had been booed off the field but with one act of good sportsmanship he won over a capacity crowd of 17,000 and also ensured there would be no lingering bitterness.
Although home supporters inside the Nottingham crowd appeared to be unanimous in their condemnation of India's behaviour, the tourists were perfectly within their rights – under the laws of the game – to insist that century-maker Bell should be given out.
The Warwickshire batsman had given England control of a see-sawing second Test when his fourth-wicket partner, Eoin Morgan, clipped the last delivery before tea to long leg.
The pair scampered three runs, leaving Bell at the striker's end, but they then assumed the ball had defeated the fumbling attempt of fielder Praveen Kumar to prevent a boundary. Even Kumar, it seemed, thought four runs would be given, judging by his somewhat half-hearted return.
Foolishly, however, Bell left his crease and made for the dressing room before umpire Asad Rauf called "over", captain and wicketkeeper Dhoni gathered the ball, tossed it to team-mate Abhinav Mukund at the stumps and the bails were removed.
India appealed for a run-out and as the on-field umpires asked for television assistance – having apparently twice offered Dhoni a chance to withdraw the appeal – boos began to echo around Trent Bridge. Then, when the verdict "out" appeared on the ground's giant TV screen, the jeers and cat-calling rapidly grew in volume.
"It was probably a bit naive on my part but I thought everything was just meandering towards walking off for tea and it wasn't until I got to the boundary rope we realised something had changed," said Bell.
"If you are going right down to exactly how the rule stands then I'm out. But it was a completely honest mistake by me to assume the ball was dead so I think the end result was probably the right one for the spirit of the game and for how we want to play this series. I think they [India] would probably admit that.
"The way they handled the situation was fantastic. But I have learned a big lesson because it was wrong of me to assume that because an umpire starts walking towards the bowler he has called 'over'."
Although India appeared adamant on the field that Bell should be given out, batsman Rahul Dravid admitted: "When we came into tea the guys started talking in the dressing room and there was a feeling that while it [the appeal] was within the laws of the game it was not in the spirit. One of the things we talked about was what if it had happened to us – we would have been disappointed if the appeal had not been withdrawn. There was something that didn't feel right about it. We accepted he wasn't attempting a run and it [the decision to reinstate Bell] was unanimous."
No-one outside the two dressing rooms knew what was happening through the 20-minute tea interval. In fact, England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower had knocked on India's door to request a meeting with their opposite numbers, Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher. Then, just a minute or so before the players were due back on the field, Bell was told he could continue his innings. He had removed his pads at one stage but put them back on when it became clear the issue was being debated.
Oblivious to developments, spectators booed when first the umpires and the Indian team took the field for the evening session – and it was only when the crowd realised Bell was coming out again that their mood changed from anger to delight.
Later, when the situation was fully explained by the ground's public address announcer, the visitors were given a standing ovation with England's players on the dressing-room balcony joining in the applause.
While England believed the right outcome had been achieved, it was only three years ago that they were criticised for failing to withdraw a run-out appeal against New Zealand's Grant Elliott during a one-day international at The Oval. Elliott had collided with an opponent and was sprawling on the ground when dismissed. "Something happened in a one-day international and I think we all put our hands up and admitted we made a wrong decision," said Bell.
Bell was eventually out for 159 yesterday and, by the close, England were in complete control at 441 for 6 – a lead of 374.Reuse content