Australia double Ashes advantage amid controversy
Written by First Choice Radio on 2 July 2023
Ben Stokes produced another astonishing Ashes performance at Lord’s, but his dazzling century was not enough to save England from defeat as Jonny Bairstow’s controversial dismissal sparked fury in the second Test.
The England captain embarked on a six-hitting rampage after Alex Carey pulled off a deeply-divisive stumping of Bairstow, making 155 as he sought to fashion an unthinkable sequel to his 2019 miracle at Headingley.
But this time a finish line of 371 was too far away.
England finished 327 all out as they went down by 43 runs to trail 2-0 in the series with three to play.
But this gripping fifth day finish will live long in the memory, not just for Stokes’ classic, but the unprecedented anger on show at the home of cricket.
Lord’s is renowned as one of the most polite sporting venues in the world – half arena, half artefact – but Carey’s opportunistic decision to throw down Bairstow’s stumps while the Englishman treated the ball as dead drew a visceral response.
A 32,000 crowd, who had snapped up day five tickets at £25, erupted in boos, jeers and repeated choruses of “same old Aussies, always cheating”.
Things even turned nasty in the Long Room, where Marylebone Cricket Club members exchanged heated words with the Australians as they walked off at lunch.
An apology followed from the MCC, but Cricket Australia requested an investigation into the incident.
The booing continued when Mitchell Starc sealed his side’s victory by cleaning up Josh Tongue and the bitter atmosphere seems likely to follow the contest to Leeds next Thursday.
England’s annoyance at the Bairstow wicket was told through the actions of Stuart Broad, who made his feelings quite clear as he arrived to join Stokes in the middle.
He was overheard on the stump microphone telling Carey “you’ll always be remembered for that” and “literally the worst thing I’ve ever seen in cricket”.
The 37-year-old, a longstanding Ashes antagonist, repeatedly made an exaggerated performance of grounding his bat at the end of the overs and asked on several occasions for confirmation that the ball was dead.
Bairstow’s exit – stumps thrown down when he appeared to think the ball was dead – awakened the kraken in Stokes, who took the matter personally and set off on a one-man revenge mission.
From that point onward he hit another 93 from 88 balls, including eight mighty sixes and five boundaries. He turned down plenty more runs as he shielded the strike from Broad, who chipped in 11 from a stand of 108, but his ability to continue finding gaps as a shell-shocked Australia posted all nine out-fielders on the ropes was enchanting to watch.
The whole tenor of the day turned on the single moment when Carey opted to take his chance to burgle Bairstow’s wicket. Familiar conversations about the nebulous “spirit of cricket” will surely follow, but so too will question marks over the Yorkshireman’s attention to detail.
England were 193 for five when he ducked under a bouncer from Cameron Green, tapped the crease and began to walk down to prod the pitch.
Australia wicketkeeper Carey sent an under-arm throw in after catching the
ball, leaping for joy as he hit the stumps. There was confusion in the middle, Bairstow believing that the ball was no longer live but eager to pursue the appeal.
The umpires sent the decision upstairs for review by TV umpire Marais Erasmus, who had no option but to confirm Bairstow’s dismissal.
The Yorkshireman reluctantly stomped off to the pavilion as the crowd raged. Broad’s arrival only dialled up the tension but Stokes was the man at the centre of the storm. He was on 62 not out at the time, playing with notable maturity, but suddenly began a frenzied display of furious hitting with 46 runs off his next 21 deliveries up the lunch break. Green was his preferred target, hammered for three fours in his next over and three sixes in the following one.
After a frantic display of hitting he emerged after the interval in exactly the same mood, flogging the second ball of the afternoon for six more. Steve Smith dropped a very catchable chance a couple of seconds later and Stokes’ tunnel vision took him all the way past 150 as Broad wore some nasty blows.
But Stokes finally made the mistake the opponents were praying for with another 70 needed. Carey, a previously innocuous figure who now seems destined for Ashes villain status, pouched the top edge and Stokes hunched over his bat in despair.
He earned a show of respect from Pat Cummins and Smith, the latter surely relieved at his own let-off, but the chances of a remarkable comeback story had all but disappeared. Ollie Robinson was quick to fall and Broad’s two-hour resistance ended without Stokes for company.
A 25-run partnership between James Anderson and Josh Tongue offered final resistance for the last wicket, before Starc went full to bowl the latter.
England must now regroup before a quick turnaround at Headingley, knowing only victory will do.
Published: by Radio NewsHub