he Ashes stumping controversy has threatened to spill into a full diplomatic row after Rishi Sunak accused Australia of not playing in the spirit of cricket, and Anthony Albanese firmly threw his support behind the Aussie team.
Fury engulfed the final day of a scintillating Test match at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London after England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow was stumped by Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey who threw down the stumps after the batter ducked the final ball of the over and set off to talk to partner Ben Stokes in the apparent belief the over had ended.
The decision for Australia not to withdraw their appeal was greeted with a sustained barrage of boos and heckles from the 32,000 capacity crowd – with the touring team then experiencing an unusually confrontational reception from Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) members in the Long Room.
England captain Stokes later said he would not “want to win a game in that manner”, adding: “If the shoe was on the other foot, I would have a deep think about the whole spirit of the game.”
Stokes made light of the row on Monday evening, replying to an Australian front-page cartoon that depicted him as a crybaby by writing: “That’s definitely not me, since when did I bowl with the new ball”.
Mr Sunak, a keen cricket fan, weighed into the row on Monday, as his official spokesman said he agreed with Stokes’ views.
“The Prime Minister agrees with Ben Stokes,” the spokesman told reporters. “He said he simply wouldn’t want to win a game in the manner Australia did.
“The game did provide an opportunity to see Ben Stokes at his best and it was an incredible test match and he has confidence England will bounce back at Headingley.”
Asked whether Mr Sunak believed Australia’s actions were not in keeping with the spirit of cricket, his spokesman said: “Yes.”
Overnight on Monday, Mr Albanese wrote on Twitter that Australia was right behind their cricket team.
On Tuesday morning, Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said England should not expect “fair play” from Australia as he urged the players on in the next contest.
Mr Mercer told Sky News: “It wasn’t actually cheating this time. Previously they did the whole sandpaper thing and when they got caught they were crying all over the media.
“I don’t think you’re going to get any particular fair play out of these.
“I think you’ve just got to give them a good pasting when you get the chance, and I hope that happens at the next Test match.”
Mr Sunak was at Lord’s on Saturday for the fourth day of the Test match, which reached its conclusion on Sunday with Australia winning by 43 runs despite Stokes’ dramatic innings of 155.
The England skipper appeared galvanised by the dismissal of Bairstow but he ultimately failed in his efforts to secure an unlikely victory.
Anger in the crowd at the manner of Bairstow’s exit on Sunday spilled over in the usually restrained Long Room at Lord’s, where Australian players Usman Khawaja and David Warner were involved in heated exchanges with jeering members.
Australia captain Pat Cummins claimed the reaction was “abusive and aggressive”, while batter Khawaja, who was seen in an angry exchange as he passed through, called it “pretty disrespectful”.
Three individuals later had their memberships suspended pending an investigation, while Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) issued an apology.
Mr Sunak’s spokesman said: “He thinks it was right that the MCC has taken swift action to suspend any member accused of poor behaviour.”
Yorkshire is on security alert for this week’s third Ashes Test at Headingley.
“The well-being of players, officials and spectators is paramount, and we are implementing appropriate measures to do everything within our control to keep everyone safe,” a spokesperson for the county told the PA news agency.
“Clearly, some incidents at Lord’s have heightened the interest and exposure of the third Test. We will continue to work closely with both the England and Wales Cricket Board and West Yorkshire Police to ensure our safety measures are proportionate for this fixture.
“The Ashes is a truly special occasion, and we want everybody visiting Headingley to have an incredible time watching first-class cricket at our iconic venue.”