The controversy surrounding Ian Bell`s run out in the current Test between England and India at Trent Bridge is likely to dominate tomorrow`s back pages, rather than Bell`s excellent innings of 159 in what is proving to be one of the great test matches.
Full credit goes to Indian captain MS Dhoni for withdrawing his appeal and so reinstating Bell after he was properly given `run out` on the stroke of tea, having assumed the ball had either gone for four or that the umpires had called tea. The laws of the game were properly applied by the match officials and Dhoni`s decision to withdraw his appeal was clearly intended to uphold the spirit of the game. A grand gesture on his part which will have done much to maintain relations between the two teams, their officials and supporters, not to say between the two countries who share an abiding passion for the game.
When the controversy arose today, my mind went as far back as 1948. That year the visiting Australians were playing Essex at Southend and scored a record 721 runs in the six hours play on the first day. Bill Brown scored 153, Bradman 187, Sam Loxton 120 and Saggers was 104 not out. Amidst all the carnage, Keith Miller strode to the crease, promptly lifted his bat from the first straight ball he received and exited stage left for a creditable duck. To him, you see, clobbering the Essex bowling all round Southend was not what cricket was about. It offended his idea of the spirit of the game and he wanted nothing to do with it.
And so, amidst all the controversy of Ian Bell`s `dismissal` and subsequent reinstatement today, I thought it would have been a gesture as grand as Dhoni`s had Bell lifted his bat to the first straight ball he received and exited stage left with his reputation enhanced at least among us romantics of the game and with the spirit of cricket confirmed by both sides. Ah well, I should know by now that it`s not 1948 any more.