Knight-time at Trent Bridge

Cricket is a game of bat and ball and therefore, if a side is to lose, it must be beaten twice-over.  This is cricket’s erudite expression of the adage, ‘It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.’

During the course of the third day of the second Test between England and India, the Indian bowlers were well and truly beaten. 

England began what for them should have been an anxious day 43 runs behind India with one wicket down and an important batsman, Trott, hors de combat.

But they ended it having scored 417 runs for the loss of only 5 wickets with a total of 441 for 6 – giving them a startling and commanding lead of 374 with more to come.

After Strauss had been unhorsed with the lost ground yet to be retaken, Bell first and Pietersen later made a mockery of the perceived difficulties of the batting conditions.  

There followed a day of carnage and mayhem. 

As soon as India had unseated one opponent his replacement picked up the fallen lance and took forward the advance with yet more zeal and vigour.

In England’s list the pugnacious Swann comes into the tilt-yard at 10 and the belligerent Broad, who transformed England’s fortunes in their first innings, has yet to bat.

It is the interminable belligerence of the batting, with its ricochet of the West Indians and the Australians in their pomp, that will have done so much psychological injury to India.

Theirs was a weakened bowling attack.  Not only is Khan missing, but Singh was unable to bowl more than 9 half-hearted overs at a stage in the match when a physically and mentally robust spinner should have bowled 30 or 40.  

Yet, the dismissal of Trott caught off the gloves from a steeply rising delivery from Kumar that was a repeat of one earlier in the day which bounced over the gloves of Dhoni standing up to the same bowler, is evidence that the spite has not been rolled and baked out of this wicket entirely.

However, the day will be remembered for an incident that occurred from the final delivery before tea when Morgan hit the ball to the midwicket boundary and, owing to a mixture of the confusion caused unintentionally by the boundary fielder, Kumar, and the tiredness and sudden break in concentration on the part of Bell (137 at the time), the batsman left his ground for the sanctuary of tea, believing the ball to have gone for four and thus to be ‘dead’.

Kumar unsure whether the ball had reached the ‘ropes’ returned the ball in leisurely fashion, via the wicket keeper, to short leg who calmly removed the bails and appealed.

Bell was given out amid the taunts and jeers of an unattractive crowd whose belligerence easily matched that of England’s batting.

Foot soldiers will say that the valid appeal should have stood.  The cavalry will say that Bell’s error was a misunderstanding and therefore, in the spirit in which cricket is played, the appeal should have been withdrawn.

Following a visit to the Indian dressing room by Strauss and Flower, Dhoni, with the support of his side, chivalrously withdrew the appeal and Bell resumed his assault on the Indian bowling after an interval extended by this diplomacy.

Whether this incident adversely affected the performance of India in the final session or whether it was plain exhaustion, England plundered 187 runs after tea with Prior hacking 64 in 55 balls and Bresnan 47 in 66.

Rahul Dravid, acting as spokesperson for Team India, had evidently been reading The Waning of the Middle Ages in which Johan Huizinga identifies the source of the chivalrous idea to be ‘pride aspiring to beauty, and formalized pride giving rise to a conception of honour, which is the pole of noble life’, told reporters, “It is nice to play the game in the right spirit.”

But chivalry is also a social mechanism for the avoidance of blood-and-treasure-sapping feuds, and the maintenance of dignity amongst a self-preserving elite.

Without questioning the upright motives of India’s senior players, who clearly felt a deep unease at the nature of Bell’s dismissal, the decision was made against the background hubub of a crowd making naked its aggressive intent and the buzz of half the commentariat who were already challenging the honour of this tourney’s visiting combatants.

After his innings of 159, Bell can place his lineage without presumption beside that of Tendulka, Dravid and Laxman in the Peerage – a high rank indeed.

The prospect is dark for India, but these esteemed knights and their fellows will tell themselves that in cricket the batsmen must be beaten too.

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