The Ashes 2023; what is the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ and did Australia break it during the test at Lord’s?
Australia’s cricket team once again “push the envelope” as questions raised over “spirit of” the Ashes series this year after Lord’s wicket controversy
People in this article
and live on Freeview channel 276
The Australian Cricket team head to the Yorkshire Cricket Club at Headingley, Leeds this week for the third test of The Ashes 2023 series, marred however by a heated exchange inside the Long Room of Lord’s Cricket Ground after the conclusion of the second test. Australia took control of the test series beating the England team by 43 runs, but it was the manner of one of the wickets that became a bone of contention for English cricket fans, and apparently three members of Marylebone Cricket Club.
The issue stems from a moment during the test where England batsman Johnny Bairstow left his crease after leaving a Cameron Green delivery on the final ball of the over. That led to Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey seizing his opportunity, throwing the ball onto the stumps to dismiss the batsman before the umpire had called 'over'.
Though technically the Australian Cricket Team did nothing wrong in terms of the rules of the game, the move was viewed as against the “spirit of the game,” a set of rules regarding respect and sportsmanlike conduct during a game of cricket. The move elicited chants from the English crowd of 'same old Aussies, always cheating.'
England captain Ben Stokes - who hit an amazing 155 runs - claimed the Aussies should have revoked their appeal; “If I was fielding captain I would have had a real think about the spirit of the game. For Australia it was the match-winning moment. Would I want to win a game in that manner? The answer for me is no.”
However, some cricket fans believe there is a double standard between the response to the wicket from the England team and fans and the matter than England themselves used the same tactic; Bairstow tried to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne by throwing the ball into the stumps when the Aussie was briefly out of his crease after a delivery - but failed to execute as well as Carey did.
It should be noted that Labuschagne was not relaxing after facing the last ball of the over, like Bairstow did when Carey took his wicket - which is central to England's argument that the act was not within the spirit of the game and led to the rather polite yet contentious altercation between Stephen Warner and three members of the Marylebone Cricket Club.
Not all Australians agree with the manner in which Australia captured the dismissal of Jonny Bairstow; former Aussie spinner Brad Hogg disagreed with his former colleague Pat Cummins, saying that the Aussies had pushed the 'spirit of the game' too far.
'Bairstow wicket, Not Out. Spirit of cricket pushed to the boundary. Not attempting a run, end of over, scratched crease then walked for the regulation BS chat between overs between batsman,' he tweeted.
What is cricket’s “spirit of the game” charter?
Ironically (depending who’s side of the crease you are on), the “Spirit of Cricket” has been posted on Cricket Australia’s website, and requests that players respect: your opponents, your own captain and team, the role of the umpires and the game and its traditional values.
It is against the spirit of the game to dispute an umpire's decision by word, action or gesture, to direct abusive language towards an opponent or umpire, to indulge in cheating or any sharp practice, for instance: (a) to appeal knowing that the batsman is not out, (b) to advance towards an umpire in an aggressive manner when appealing, (c) to seek to distract an opponent either verbally or by harassment with persistent clapping or unnecessary noise under the guise of enthusiasm and motivation of one's own side
While Australia have been known, through sledging, to bend the spirit of the game at times, accordingly their means of getting a wicket of Bairstow still, technically, is within the spirit of the game if applied to the written letter.
Why do English cricket fans think the Australian Cricket Team are cheaters?
Maybe not so much cheaters, but the Australia Cricket Team, even by their own admission, have been known to “push the envelope” regarding the spirit of the game from time to time. From sledging (the act of trash talking batters to rattle them from their game) through to aggressive bowling, there have been a litany of moments the line was marched up to, but never crossed.
Except on one certain occasion, which brought Australian cricket into disrepute and led to an overall examination of the culture of Cricket Australia. For that, we venture back to the 2018 Australian test series against South Africa, and in particular the third test.
Cameron Bancroft, an Australian cricketer, was caught on camera attempting to alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper. It was later revealed that Bancroft, along with captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner, had conspired to cheat by tampering with the ball to gain an unfair advantage.
Bancroft was seen using a small piece of sandpaper to rough up the ball, which can make it more difficult for the batsman to play. After the incident was exposed, all three players admitted their involvement. Smith acknowledged that the plan was made by the team's "leadership group" during the lunch break. They later tried to cover up their actions, leading to further misconduct charges.
As a result of their actions, Bancroft was given a nine-month suspension from international and domestic cricket, Smith and Warner received 12-month suspensions. They were also stripped of their leadership positions and faced additional penalties. Warner faced particularly strong criticism and lost respect among many people.
The scandal received widespread condemnation from fans, officials, and former players. The Prime Minister of Australia expressed his disappointment and called for strong action. Cricket Australia conducted its own investigation and charged the players with bringing the game into disrepute. They were found guilty and received the mentioned suspensions and fines.
Following the scandal, Darren Lehmann, the coach of the Australian cricket team, stepped down from his role, and Tim Paine was appointed as the acting captain. Smith, Warner, and Bancroft apologised for their actions and expressed remorse. It was particularly gruelling for Steve Smith, who openly wept during a press conference about his conduct when asked what his own father thought about the cheating.