Ponting requests an ICC probe after his replacement ‘struck the bat so hard.’
Usman Khawaja, Australia’s opening batter, echoed Ricky Ponting’s displeasure with the crucial ball change midway through the fourth innings of the fifth Ashes Test at the Kia Oval, saying he “hadn’t felt the ball hit my bat as hard” at any other point in the series, despite facing over 1200 deliveries across the five Tests.
Khawaja finished the series as Australia’s highest batter with 496 runs at 49.60, and as he and David Warner added 140 for the first wicket, their pursuit of a hard 384-run total appeared to be on track.
However, umpires Joel Wilson and Kumar Dharmasena changed the ball after the first delivery of the 37th over because it had gone out of shape after Mark Wood hit Khawaja in the helmet with a bouncer. After the ball change, only 11 more balls were bowled on the second afternoon.
The replacement appeared to be substantially tougher and younger than the original ball. On the fifth morning, England claimed three early wickets, with Chris Woakes removing Khawaja and Warner in consecutive overs before Wood had Marnus Labuschagne caught in the slips. Australia then lost five wickets in a row to Moeen Ali and Woakes before Stuart Broad, still armed with the replacement ball, sealed victory in the 95th over of the innings.
“We started off really well,” Khawaja stated during the post-match press conference. “The big deal was that ball.” As soon as they changed that ball for the first time, I knew this ball was different. I approached Kumar and asked, ‘How old is this ball you’ve given them? It feels like it’s about eight years old.’ The text was visible on both sides, and it hit my bat so hard.
Usman Khawaja, Ricky Ponting query controversial ball-change
“Obviously, Woody hit me in the head, and they changed the ball because they said it was damaged.” But the fresh ball that came in, when I struck it with my bat… I’ve opened in every single inning of this Ashes series, and I’ve never felt a ball hit my bat as hard as that ball did.
“So I told the boys coming in today to be careful because this new ball is going to be tricky.” It’s going to be a lot more difficult than the other ball. Some aspects of the game are beyond your control. It was unfortunate for us since I thought we had a firm grip on the game.”
During the lunch break, former Australia captain Ricky Ponting suggested that the umpires had been “blasé” in their approach to replacing the ball or that they had not been provided with an appropriate substitute in the box of balls brought onto the ground by the fourth umpire, David Millns.
“The biggest concern I have is the large discrepancy in the condition of the ball that was chosen to replace the one [that had gone out of shape],” Ponting remarked on Sky Sports. “There’s no way in the world you can look at those two balls and say they’re comparable in any way.”
“At the end of the day, if you’re going to change the ball, you want to make sure that you get it right, so [you make it] as close to the one you’re changing it from as possible.” If you peek inside that box, you won’t find many balls in good shape. Some older ones were picked up, but the umpires glanced at them and threw them back.
“I just don’t understand how two international umpires who have done this many times before can get it so wrong.” That is a key moment in this game, potentially a huge moment in the Test match, and I believe it should be investigated: whether the balls were in proper condition in the box, or whether the umpires simply picked one out of there that they thought would be okay to use.”
Sky revealed ball-tracking data indicating that the ball seamed and swung substantially more on the fifth morning than on the fourth afternoon, causing Ponting to request an investigation.
“Let’s just say the conditions were ideal for bowling this morning,” Ponting added. “The bowling conditions were better this morning. But what I witnessed last night, that ball there—I’ll put my hand up and say without a doubt, that ball would not have done nearly as much as what that one did this morning.
“Double the amount of movement from yesterday afternoon, seam movement, and swing this morning.” I believe that is a major blunder that should be investigated.”
If the umpires concur that the ball has become “unfit for play through normal use,” they must replace it “with a ball that has had wear comparable to that which the previous ball had received before the need for its replacement,” according to Law 4.5.
England’s assistant coach, Marcus Trescothick, stated on the second evening that the new ball appeared “just a bit harder” than the old one.
“The boys could sense the ball was making a different sound off the bat,” he explained. “There’s a lot more life in it right away.” The balls appear to have been incredibly soft and very quick in this game and series. Both captains have made many attempts to replace them.”
Glenn Maxwell, a member of Australia’s limited-overs squad, tweeted shortly after the first wicket fell: “Beware the 2nd newy #ashes”.