FOOTNOTE: 01 August 2011: England storm to a 2-0 series lead and now look odds on to win the four Test series by the minimum 2-match margin that will take India’s crown as the world’s No.1 cricket team.
It is rare in the modern world that great sportsmanship prevails at the highest level – and one can only admire India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for his gracious reprieve for England’s batting hero Ian Bell at such a pivotal moment in the Second Test.
Bell had played one of his finest innings for England, scoring 137 when he was given “run out” after the last delivery before the tea interval – and then reinstated in the most bizarre circumstances.
Eoin Morgan had played the ball down to long leg and Praveen Kumar made a diving attempt to stop the ball, which bounced off his leg as he fell over the boundary. Kumar, clearly under the impression that the ball had gone for four, returned it to MS Dhoni. And when the skipper gave it to his short-leg fielder Abhinav Mukund, who broke the wicket, Bell was run out. By this time Bell and Morgan, who appeared to think the umpire had called “over”, were on their way back to the pavilion for their cup of tea.
Following Indian appeals for the run out, Bell was given out after replays had shown that the ball had not gone for four and the umpires were booed as they took the field after the interval. But the boos turned to cheers when Bell resumed his innings, Dhoni withdrawing the appeal over tea.
Bell went on to reach 159 as England re-asserted their supremacy with an extraordinary 417 runs on the third day, reaching 441-6 to lead by 374. There is every chance Dhoni’s sporting gesture will cost India not only defeat to England, but ultimately their status as the world’s No.1 cricket team.
The whole episode was summed up succinctly by Bell – who was guilty of not playing to the whistle, when he said: “I was a bit naive to walk off for tea not attempting a run. But in the spirit of the game the right decision was made.”
Whatever the outcome of this Test, Dhoni’s sportsmanship will go down in history as the day India upheld the spirit of the game. There are not many sportsmen who would have done the same.
The day Thierry Henry grotesquely handled the ‘goal’ that sent France to the 2008 FIFA World Cup at the expense of Ireland stands out like a beacon as the occasion when one of football’s most gifted players was branded a cheat because his side refused to invoke the purist principles of good sportsmanship.
HOW THE SECOND TEST ENDED: The previous day’s drama was eclipsed when Tim Bresnan scored 90 runs and took five wickets as England tore India apart to surge to one of their most impressive Test victories in recent times. After racking up 544 in a blistering batting display, England’s seamers skittled the tourists for 158 to complete a 319-run victory on the fourth day at Trent Bridge. Geoffrey Boycott summed up England’s superiority when he declared: “England are after a 4-0 series victory and will go number one in the world easily. They are all over India. They are not just beating them but demoralising them. There are moments where it’s touch and go, but like a boxer they wear them down before they knock them absolutely flat out.”