Dhoni gesture earns standing ovation at Trent Bridge
And MS Dhoni even takes the moral high-ground stylishly. India's captain is not just cool. He is Arctic. The pantomime season comes to Trent Bridge roughly once every four years. Or, more precisely, when India are in town.
Last time they were here it was all about jelly beans, beamers and shoulder barges. This time it has been Vaseline, jumpers and ropey run outs. They certainly find peculiar things to get upset about in these parts.
The animosity started early yesterday, but at first it was confined to everywhere but the pitch.
In the television commentary box, Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, was falling out with his colleague Ravi Shastri, the former India batsman, over the misuse of technology in this series.
After that tiff, Michael Vaughan, another former England captain, - who was on the receiving end of that Sreesanth shoulder barge on this ground in 2007 - sparked a storm in cyberspace.
His suggestion that VVS Laxman had escaped a caught-behind dismissal on day two because Vaseline had been smeared on the edge of his bat was not taken in the spirit in which, he said, it was meant.
Even Sanjay Manjrekar, another former India batsman turned commentator, tweeted in to warn Vaughan's critics against giving his perceived slurs any more oxygen than they deserved.
All that, though, was just the preamble.
On the stroke of tea, Ian Bell's imperious century seemed to have come to an end when India's fielders eventually affected the most bizarre run out.
India have got form when it comes to controversial run outs, but you have to go back a bit for that. In 1947, Vinoo Mankad gave his name to a new method of dismissal when he ran out the Australian batsman Bill Brown for backing up too far.
For 20 minutes yesterday afternoon, Bell looked certain to have assumed the dubious honour of being the first player to be "Kumared" in cricket history.
On the final ball before the tea break, Praveen Kumar, the bowler, tumbled over the boundary rope in stopping the ball. His body language suggested that he felt he had given away four runs, but he tossed the ball back in anyway, by which time Bell and his partner Eoin Morgan were heading back to the dressing room for tea.
While they were gone, the fielders flicked off the bails and their subsequent appeal for a run out - which it turned out was for Bell - was upheld by the television official. As the captain, Dhoni was the target of the home crowd's ire. There was a dramatic pause between the umpires emerging after tea and the Indian players following them.
When they did, they were greeted with angry jeers from a by now hostile crowd. Being as cool as he is, Dhoni restrained himself from shouting back at them: "He's behind me!"
However, as soon as they saw Bell returning from the pavilion a few steps behind the Indians, the boos turned to cheers.
For his sportsmanship in withdrawing the appeal, which was apparently prompted by a request from England's management, Dhoni earned a standing ovation, and later a commendation from the heads of both the English and international governing bodies.
The storm in a tea break took some of the gloss off a glorious century by Bell, and, despite the controversy surrounding his non-run out, even India's players appreciated it. When he was eventually out, two Indian fielders tapped him on the back and two others went out of their way to shake his hand as he walked off.
The significant sideshows should not detract from the fact that India are in serious danger of going two-down with two to play in this series. England scored more than 400 runs in the day and start again today with a lead of 374.
Published: August 1, 2011 04:00 AM