London: Kevin Pietersen hailed Ian Bell for wresting the initiative from Australia in the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge and defended Stuart Broad from allegations of bad sportsmanship.
Bell`s disciplined 95 not out helped take Ashes-holders England to 326 for six in their second innings at stumps on Friday`s third day, a lead of 261 runs.
Together with Broad, 47 not out, Bell had so far added an unbroken 108 for the seventh wicket.
It was a potentially decisive partnership, with the most runs ever scored by a side in the fourth innings to win a Test at Trent Bridge the 284 for six England made against New Zealand at the Nottingham ground in 2004.
The tourists were, however, adamant Broad should have been out on 37 when he edged teenage debutant spinner Ashton Agar to Australia captain Michael Clarke at first slip.
But experienced umpire Aleem Dar, whose view may have been obscured by the gloves of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, gave Broad not out.
For all their visible frustration and disbelief, Australia ultimately had no choice but to accept the Pakistani`s decision as they`d already used up their two permitted reviews in the innings, even though replays showed a thick edge.
"Every single batsman who plays cricket, no matter who you play for, has the right to wait for the umpire`s decision," said Pietersen.
"We play hard and we play very, very fair and every single batsman has the right to wait for the umpire."
"Aleem Dar is a fantastic umpire and we respect his decisions."
Pietersen, who earlier played on to James Pattinson for 64, when asked about Bell`s innings after stumps told reporters: "Absolutely brilliant. We know how good Belly is."
In the course of his innings, the 31-year-old Bell passed 6,000 Test runs and closed in on his 18th century in his 89th match at this level.
Yet throughout his career Bell has faced accusations he doesn`t score runs when England most need them.
However, there was no doubting the importance of his near five-and-a-half hours at the crease on Friday and Pietersen said: "He is backed incredibly well in our dressing room. He has proven why we think he is a fantastic player.”
"He has come out there and played a very mature innings on quite a tough wicket. He had to play with a lot of discipline.”
Meanwhile, Australia`s Peter Siddle, asked if he`d ever seen a bigger edge than Broad`s not given out, jokingly replied: "I don`t know, maybe in the backyard off my brother!”
"It`s the umpire`s decision and you take it and keep going on."
But Australia legend Shane Warne, who had several run-ins with Dar during his illustrious career, was not so diplomatic.
"He always gets the crucial decisions wrong & always has, that`s why he`s not a great umpire!," Warne told his Twitter followers.
Meanwhile England great Geoffrey Boycott insisted Broad had done nothing wrong.
"There is no debate, it`s quite simple," former opening batsman Boycott told BBC Radio`s Test Match Special.
"The Australians I have played with and have watched, with the exception of Adam Gilchrist, believe in standing and it`s up to the umpire to give you out -- there shouldn`t be a moral argument.”
"They (Australia) should be upset, disappointed and angered by the umpires. If they keep making poor decisions, it`s up to the ICC (International Cricket Council) to do something about it."
Boycott added: "I certainly won`t be crying for Australia. It shouldn`t over-ride the fact that Ian Bell has played one of his best ever innings for England.”
"I still think it`s a good pitch to bat on, so I`m not sure England will definitely win it, because it`s not one of those pitches were you will flash the ball around."