2nd Test

England v India, 2011

Dean Wilson

At Nottingham, July 29-August 1. England won by 319 runs. Toss: India.


When the geopolitical relationship between England and India is studied in lecture theatres in 50 years' time, it is just possible the Trent Bridge Test will earn a passing mention. India's act of sportsmanship in recalling Bell, who had been legitimately - if controversially - run out from the last ball before tea on the third day, was as generous as it was diplomatic. And though the debate it reignited about the spirit of cricket contained its usual dose of idealism, the gesture undoubtedly avoided souring everything that followed.

As the players re-emerged after the break, the boos from a crowd that had unfairly discerned Indian skulduggery quickly turned to cheers once it was clear Bell had been reinstated. Dhoni later explained the dismissal "did not feel right". And while his change of heart had little impact on a game won with ease by an England side that went from resilient to rampant in claiming a 2-0 lead, it ensured him a place in cricket's pantheon of sporting gestures. Even the hat-trick taken by Broad the previous day was forgotten amid the drama. But that may have been little consolation for Dhoni, who for the first time in 29 Tests as captain had presided over successive defeats, and twice watched his side squander strong positions.

The unvarnished truth was that Bell did not necessarily deserve his Sunday-afternoon let-off. Having played exquisitely for his 15th Test century, he switched off after completing a third run following Morgan's flick to long leg. Wrongly assuming Kumar had failed to prevent the ball from touching the boundary, Bell wandered up the pitch to congratulate his team-mate and head off for tea. Kumar, apparently unsure himself whether he had saved the four, casually threw the ball to Dhoni, who underarmed it to Mukund, standing over the stumps at the striker's end. Mukund removed the bails and quietly appealed.

This apparently innocuous mini-relay was the cue for chaos. Bell and Morgan were stopped at the boundary edge by the fourth umpire, Tim Robinson, while the on-field officials asked their TV colleague, Billy Bowden, to check Kumar's fielding. It later transpired Dhoni had been asked whether he wanted to withdraw the appeal. When he declined, only one decision was possible: Bell had left his crease before the umpires called "over" and was thus, according to the letter of the law, run out for 137. More drama was to follow.

While the Indians, who were heckled in the pavilion, debated the decision among themselves, Strauss and Andy Flower, England's coach, visited their dressing-room to ask them to reconsider on the grounds that Bell had not been attempting a run. That in itself may have constituted a breach of the game's spirit, but Dravid later insisted India had reached their own conclusion anyway. Law 27.8 appeared to suggest this was unacceptably unilateral. It reads: "The captain of the fielding side may withdraw an appeal only if he obtains the consent of the umpire within whose jurisdiction the appeal falls. He must do so before the outgoing batsman has left the field of play. If such consent is given, the umpire concerned shall, if applicable, revoke his decision and recall the batsman." But Law 43, the unwritten coda which applauds common sense, won the day.

England covered all eventualities with four batsmen padded up in the pavilion, but when play restarted after tea, a few minutes late, it was Bell who jogged down the steps. He would add only 22 to his score before edging Yuvraj Singh to slip, though by then India had all but given up hope of levelling the series.

It had been so different on the opening day, when India - after winning another good toss - took control in conditions tailor-made for swing and seam. From 69 for two, England lost Pietersen in the first over after lunch, then five more wickets before tea. A succession of batsmen failed to come to terms with the seam-upright accuracy of Sreesanth, drafted in for the injured Zaheer Khan, the gentle swingers of Kumar, and Sharma's lateral movement. But from 124 for eight, Broad and Swann - both of Nottinghamshire - counter- attacked, adding 73 in 70 balls, before Broad and Anderson took the total to an almost- respectable 221.

Anderson continued the fightback as Mukund squirted the first ball of the reply to backward point, but on the second day India reasserted themselves, initially through stand- in opener Dravid and makeshift No. 3 Laxman. When Tendulkar briefly joined Dravid, it was the first instance of Test cricket's two leading run-scorers batting together since Clem Hill and Victor Trumper did so against England at Sydney in 1911-12. Gambhir's replacement Yuvraj - badly dropped by Pietersen in the gully on four - helped Dravid take the score to 267 for four after tea. Enter Broad, this time to change the game for good. Armed with the second new ball, he produced a spell of five wickets for no run in 16 balls, including a hat-trick - the 12th in Tests by an England bowler, the first on home soil for 16 years and the first by any side against India. Criticised during the Sri Lanka series for pitching too short, Broad had rediscovered the virtue of getting the ball up to the bat. For Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Kumar, it was all too much, although Harbhajan would have been saved had the DRS been in place, after edging into his pads.

With Bresnan - a late replacement for Tremlett, who had a hamstring injury - removing Dravid, caught at third man after completing his 34th Test hundred, England found themselves trailing by only 67. Although they lost both openers before clearing the deficit, they gradually regained control on a pitch becalmed beyond all recognition. Promoted to No. 3 because Trott had hurt a shoulder while fielding, Bell instantly looked relaxed but authoritative - a far cry from many of his previous 33 Test innings at first drop. He sparkled during a third-wicket stand of 162 with Pietersen, and was taking the game away from India when, with England's lead 187, he was carelessly run out.

His reinstatement allowed him to extend his partnership with Morgan to 104, before Prior, who battered his way to a 38-ball half-century, and Bresnan shook off the loss of three quick wickets to add 119 in 20 overs. By the close of a day on which Harbhajan was restricted to nine overs because of an abdominal injury, England had thrashed 417 runs - the first time any team had scored over 400 in a day's Test cricket at Trent Bridge since 1954.

Bresnan fell ten short of a maiden Test hundred on the fourth morning, but India - set 478 to win, or, more realistically, five sessions to save the game - looked dead and buried once Dravid edged Broad in the fourth over and Anderson bowled Laxman with an unplayable delivery in the seventh. If Tendulkar managed to bat in his own little world for a while, the other end was as porous as he was watertight. Raina, hooking to long leg, and Yuvraj, who had his finger broken before fending to short gully, were undone in brutal fashion by Bresnan and, when Dhoni shouldered arms to his first delivery, India were 55 for six.

Tendulkar departed in similar fashion, falling to Anderson for the seventh time in Tests - only Muttiah Muralitharan had claimed his wicket more often - before Bresnan secured his maiden five-for when Harbhajan provided a second catch for the substitute fielder, Scott Elstone of Nottinghamshire. When Broad bowled Sreesanth with well over a day to spare, England were one win away from claiming both the series and the title of the best Test team in the world.

Man of the Match: S. C. J. Broad. Attendance: 67,519.

Close of play: First day, India 24-1 (Dravid 7, Laxman 13); Second day, England 24-1 (Strauss 6, Bell 9); Third day, England 441-6 (Prior 64, Bresnan 47).

© John Wisden & Co.