Ian Bell’s maiden Test hundred against India allied to a sporting reprieve saw England into a commanding lead on the third day of the second Test at Trent Bridge here on Sunday.
England, in their second innings, were 441 for six at the close, giving them a lead of 374 runs.
Bell made a superb 159, but only after being run out when on 137 to the last ball before tea.
Having completed three runs with Eoin Morgan following a misfield by Praveen Kumar, he sprinted off the field believing the umpires had called ‘time’.
In fact the ball was still ‘live’ — Morgan gestured to his partner to regain his ground — and, after calling in the third umpire, the on-field officials gave a stunned Bell out.
England coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss went to the visitors’ dressing room at tea to ask India, whose coach is ex-England supremo Duncan Fletcher, if they wanted the appeal to stand.
And minutes later India withdrew their appeal.
Umpires Marais Erasmus of South Africa and Pakistan’s Asad Rauf emerged after tea to boos from spectators, unaware the decision had been reversed, as did India before the jeers became cheers when Bell resumed his innings.
Although Bell made only 22 more runs following the reversal of a decision which was quite correct, he added an additional 69 with Morgan in what turned out to be a fourth wicket partnership of 104.
Bell’s eventual 159 included 24 fours and was made in nearly five-and-a-half hours at the crease.
He was finally out when his cut off part-time left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh was caught by Venkatsai Laxman at slip.
Left-hander Morgan went to a 60-ball fifty, featuring seven fours, with a straight six against off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
But the advent of the new ball, as it had done in India’s first innings on Saturday, led to wickets with medium-pacer Praveen Kumar taking two for five runs in nine balls.
Morgan was caught behind for 70 before Jonathan Trott, batting down the order after suffering a shoulder injury while fielding on Saturday, gloved a rising delivery to Rahul Dravid in the slips.
England were 339 for six at that point, but wicketkeeper Matt Prior again proved a thorn in India’s side with the bat, hooking fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth for six on his way to an unbeaten 64.
He received excellent support from Tim Bresnan, 47 not out, in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 102.
Ealrier, Bell had helped add 162 for the third wicket before Kevin Pietersen (63) was caught behind off Sreesanth by India captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Bell, 84 not out at lunch and scoring briskly, went to 98 with a fluent cover-driven four off Kumar.
Then a leg-glanced two off Sreesanth saw the 29-year-old Bell, batting at number three because of Warwickshire colleague Trott’s injury, to his 15th hundred in 67 Tests and fourth this year.
England resumed on 24 for one, still 43 runs behind despite Stuart Broad taking a hat-trick on Saturday on his way to Test-best figures of six for 46 on his Nottinghamshire home ground.
India’s first innings of 288 also saw Dravid make 117 — his 34th Test century and second in as many matches after his 103 not out during England’s 196-run first Test win at Lord’s.
England will replace India at the top of the ICC’s Test Championship table if they win this four-match series 2-0 or better.