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The contentious run-out of Ian Bell at the stroke of tea on the third day, which threatened to erupt into the biggest controversy of the series, was overturned during the break after MS Dhoni withdrew the appeal.
At the stroke of tea, Bell's run-out on 137, after having left the crease before the ball was dead, was on the verge of becoming a major point of dispute between the two sides. During the break, England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower went to the Indian dressing room to ask MS Dhoni if the run-out decision could be overturned. The Indians agreed to withdraw the appeal.
At the resumption after tea, Bell and Eoin Morgan walked out to cheers from a surprised and appreciative crowd, which just a few minutes earlier had booed the two umpires - a small section of the crowd even chanting, the word 'cheat' - and then the Indian team as it made its way out, with Strauss and his men standing on the balcony of their pavilion clapping the Indians onto the field.
It all began when Morgan flicked the last ball of the 66th over, from Ishant Sharma, to deep square leg where Praveen Kumar tumbled over trying to field. The batsmen, having taken the third, appeared to be unsure whether the ball had reached the boundary. Morgan held up his arm to Bell, who jogged halfway down the pitch and then continued walking down. The throw from Praveen eventually came in to Abhinav Mukund, who took off the bails and appealed for a run-out. By that time, Bell had punched gloves with his partner and was heading towards the pavilion.
The umpires checked again with the Indians as to whether they had appealed. When the Indians said they had, the third umpire was asked to establish whether the ball had crossed the boundary. The two batsmen, who had reached the edge of the field, were asked not to leave the ground. It was learnt that during the incident the Indians had been asked three times whether they were sure whether they wanted to persist with the appeal or whether they wanted to change their mind.
There was a delay of eight minutes as the third umpire reviewed the replay and decided that the ball had not crossed the boundary. The decision of "out" flashed up on the screen, and the Indians left the field to heavy booing from the crowd. The Sky TV coverage showed during the incident as well on its nightly news, a clipping of Bell walking towards fourth umpire Tim Robinson and saying what sounded like, "He called over." In his media conference, however Bell said he did not hear any umpire calling 'over.' The Sky TV audio track also has no sound of the umpire calling over. The only time the word "over" is heard on that piece of video tape, comes from Ishant who, after the bails are dislodged, is heard asking in Hindi if the over had ended and whether it was time for tea.
Just over an hour after the incident, an announcement was made on the stadium's public address system, explaining the incident to the full house at Trent Bridge. The crowd heard that after Strauss and Flower asked Dhoni to withdraw the appeal, he went across to his team-mates and sought their view. The team agreed to recall Bell to the crease and the decision was made known to the England camp. The announcement stated that the ECB thanked the Indian team's gesture to withdraw the appeal against Bell and asked the crowd to show its appreciation. Once the announcement ended, applause rang out all around Trent Bridge.
Speaking after the day's play, Bell was appreciative of India's decision to reinstate him, and admitted that it was naive on his part to leave the crease with the ball still in play. "From Praveen's body language, it looked like that had gone for four," Bell told the Star Cricket channel. "Probably naïve on my behalf, but taking into account the spirit of cricket and everything, this was probably the right decision. It wasn't until we [Bell and Morgan] reached the boundary rope, when the umpires asked us to wait, that I knew something was on. It's fantastic the way India have gone about this. The captains and coaches got together, and were asked if the decision would stand. Duncan Fletcher and MS Dhoni went back to discuss it with the team and came back to us, and I got the nod."
Rahul Dravid said the Indian team was in unanimous agreement that the decision had to be reversed. "In the laws of the game, if you follow them strictly, that was out, but it didn't feel right in the spirit of the game," he said. "There was a team discussion during the tea interval, Dhoni and Fletcher convened the meeting, and Dhoni led it. There was a feeling of unanimity that we should reinstate Bell because the spirit of the game was important, and that getting him out in that way would contravened the spirit ... If this had happened to our guys we would not have been happy about it. So all of that was discussed."
There was appreciation from the ECB chief executive David Collier and the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat, both of whom acknowledged the appeal for the run-out was a valid one. "The withdrawal of a valid appeal at the tea interval was made in the spirit of cricket by the India team and demonstrates the true spirit in which the game of cricket should be played and the excellent relationship between the ECB and BCCI," Collier said in a statement. "On behalf of the ECB I wish to express the England and Wales Cricket Board's grateful thanks the BCCI and the India team."
Lorgat said the withdrawal of the appeal showed great maturity on the part of India. "The initial appeal and umpire decision may have been acceptable to the letter of the law, the decision by India captain MS Dhoni and his team - as well as the Team India coaching staff - to withdraw the appeal shows great maturity. To see players and officials uphold the great spirit of cricket, which has underpinned the game for more than a century, is very special."