Flower denies double standards over run-out reprieve
England's coach, Andy Flower, believes his team was right to ask India to rethink their controversial run-out of Ian Bell at Trent Bridge, adding that it would have caused an "international incident" had Sachin Tendulkar been dismissed in a similarly bizarre fashion.
Bell's 159 was the cornerstone of England's revival in the second Test, as they turned a first-innings deficit of 67 into a thumping 319-run victory. However, he might have been sent on his way for 137 on the stroke of tea, when a half-hearted throw from Praveen Kumar the boundary's edge led Abhinav Mukund to remove the bails with Bell already walking back to the pavilion.
Bell conceded he had been "naive" in failing to wait for the umpire to signal the end of the over, but with boos ringing out around the ground, Flower and England's captain, Andrew Strauss, took the decision to visit the Indian dressing room to request a change of heart. Such an approach was at odds with England's attitude during an ODI at The Oval in 2008, when New Zealand's Grant Elliott was run out after colliding with Ryan Sidebottom. Flower, however, said that those who criticised England's actions on this occasion were guilty of "double standards".
"We didn't think sitting in our changing room and fuming quietly to ourselves was going to do any good," Flower told reporters at Trent Bridge. "We thought communicating like that would be the way to go. We felt that Bell wasn't attempting to take a run and therefore we wanted to ask the Indian side to reconsider their appeal."
Dhoni was asked three times by the umpires whether he was happy for the appeal to go ahead, and though he later suggested that he had changed his mind before England's intervention, it has since been claimed that Tendulkar was the instigator of the retraction.
Perhaps India were mindful of the potential for controversy had Bell remained out. During England's 1974 tour of the Caribbean, Tony Greig ran out Alvin Kallicharran in the final over of the day, only for the batsman to be reinstated overnight at the behest of the British high commissioner, after angry spectators had stormed the ground and laid siege to the pavilion.
"I'm not convinced there wouldn't have been uproar," said Flower of such a scenario. "If an England side had done that in Mumbai [against Tendulkar], I think there would have been a proper international incident on the cards. I don't think that's being overly dramatic. We've seen similar things happen before. In evaluating the situation, I don't think you should have double standards."
England's crushing victory has left them needing just one more victory, or back-to-back draws, in the final two matches of the series to be crowned the No. 1 Test side. Flower refused to think that far ahead, though, and reiterated that the series had not even been won yet, let alone by any title-clinching margin.
"I would like to emphasise right now that we're ahead in the series but we're only halfway through the series," he said. "So there is no point in triumphalism, we don't even know if we're going to win the series yet. At the forefront of our minds right now should be resting and recuperating after the back-to-back Tests and then getting our minds and bodies ready for the next challenge at Edgbaston. It's actually not only pointless looking further ahead than that, it's dangerous."
With the Edgbaston Test starting on August 10, England have a week to determine the fitness of Jonathan Trott. Flower said he was "still in a bit of discomfort and nowhere near 100% yet" after landing heavily on his shoulder while fielding during the second Test. Trott's possible replacement is the uncapped Leicestershire batsman, James Taylor, who stole a march on Ravi Bopara by making 76 for England Lions against Sri Lanka A in Scarborough on Tuesday. However, there may yet be the temptation to play five bowlers, given that Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan both racked up more than 100 runs in Nottingham.
The expected return to fitness of Chris Tremlett means that Bresnan may yet have to make way. "If we keep with three seamers and a spinner, it will be a difficult call to make," said Flower. "We need to see conditions first but our four seamers are all performing exceptionally well. Bresnan, Tremlett, [Jimmy] Anderson and [Stuart] Broad are battling for the top spots in a very healthy way. That sort of competition is a great thing for English cricket."