Ball-Tampering Or Fake News?

Strewth. What a bunch of drongos. Show some Australians a photo of an English cricketer wearing a white sheet on halloween and they’ll claim our dressing room has been infiltrated by the ku klux klan. Sod the evidence. Sod context. Why bother gathering all the facts when there are professional reputations to tarnish?

The Jimmy Anderson ball tampering row that emerged on day four at the MCG says a lot more about the nature of the Aussie media, it’s pundits, and the ignorance of some Australian cricket supporters than it does about Anderson himself. The whole ‘incident’ was a storm in a teacup and a desperate act to (a) ‘beat up’ the English (the expression apparently used by the umpires), and (b) get some valuable click-bait out there.

Certain media outlets, and we all know who they are, should be ashamed. Instead I bet they’re smirking mischievously as they examine their web traffic and reap the benefits from advertisers. I doubt they care they were asked to remove the words ‘ball-tampering’ from their headlines. They saw an opportunity to kick England in the crown jewels, and simultaneously appeal to worst side of their supporters’ nature, and they took it.

It was so predictable too. As soon as I saw the TV cameras obsessing about England’s treatment of the ball (which occurred long before any ostensibly dodgy footage emerged) we all knew what narrative the Australians were trying to create. Unfortunately for them the overwhelming majority of footage showed England shining one side of the ball vigorously (and entirely legally) on their whites, and then throwing the ball into rough areas of the square to rough up the other side – something the Australians also did for several hours during England’s innings.

But then the mischief makers sensed their moment. Not long after Stuart Broad showed the umpires that little pieces of leather were sticking up on the shiny side – something that damages the fielding team’s ability to get the surface smooth – the cameras focused in on a conversation between Root, Anderson, and the aforementioned officials.

During this discussion a camera zoomed in on Jimmy’s hand while he was brushing his thumb over the quarterseam. Even though it looked like he was simply removing some mud or pressing down a bit of leather (he certainly wasn’t applying much force) all hell broke loose on social media. It didn’t matter one iota that:

(a) Anderson did this in full view of the umpire

(b) You could see in the next frame that the ball’s condition hadn’t changed at all (there was nothing remotely resembling a gouge)

(c) Jimmy was working on the shiny side (so any tampering would have been counterproductive).

Sensing some kind of smoking gun – which was actually more akin to a broken water pistol – Wide World Of Sports immediately published a mischievous tweet with a freeze frame of Anderson’s thumb on the quarterseam. Even though the picture showed nothing conclusive, a bunch of social media drongos, plus a few former Australia players like Mitchell Johnson who should know better, starting making borderline slanderous suggestions that England were cheating.

In my opinion this reaction was hysterical, under-the-belt, and quite frankly a bit malicious. What’s more, it sounded a lot like a losing team whinging … which is, of course, exactly what the same people accuse England of doing when they’re under the cosh. Oh the irony.

After the official Cricket Australia website irresponsibly reported the ‘incident’ – which seemed to legitimise this complete non-story – a whole host of Australians brushed off their metaphorical saddles and relished a golden opportunity to get on their high horses. Idiots started throwing the law book around, arguing that it was illegal to alter the condition of the ball in any way. What they forgot to mention, of course, is that the pictures proved Anderson did not alter the ball, and that the laws also say it’s perfectly legal to remove mud from the quarterseam.

Sensing another row, Trevor Bayliss ran to the umpires’ room at the first opportunity. They confirmed what anyone with a brain and a sense of objectivity and fairness already knew: Anderson had done nothing wrong and the story was just a ‘beat up’. How interesting that the umpires themselves, who were right there when the supposed incident took place, should use this expression. It’s almost like they know how the Australian media works.

Obviously yesterday’s play was curtailed due to rain so there was little to talk about. But cynics might argue this row was a deliberate attempt to deflect attention away from the state of the game: England have outplayed Australia in Melbourne and probably averted a whitewash. How unfortunate that they can’t simply say “well played” and perhaps enjoy a little harmless “well you’ve already lost the series” banter.

I like Australians. I have Aussie second cousins. I spent six months out there after university and I loved the country and the people. However, it’s all rather tiresome when banter crosses the line into something sour and, in this observer’s opinion, somewhat underhand. I lost some respect for quite a few people yesterday.

James Morgan


  • Well, I lived in Oz for over 30 years, and your 2nd sentence sums them up really. They’re a tad thick, hate the English, and generally, have to make up their own rubbish and then self agree, because nobody else gives a shit.

    The WORST thing that could happen is for the UK media to take this whole “shit-show” on board, as if to give it some credibility.

    Best, like a naughty child, to ignore the Aussies and they’ll soon return to form, picking on their own “tall poppies”

    • You’re right that Australians probably aren’t that clever in general. But they do seem to have a certain native cunning when it comes to working over their home-schooled English cousins.

      As for the tendency to “self-agree”, this site is Exhibit A in the argument that the Poms are more than a match for Australians on that score. You guys run a tight ship when it comes to slavish adherence to the prevailing consensus and dissenters are vilified as trolls.

  • An interesting question. Given that Cricket Australia reported the allegation on their official media, can the ICC fine them for repeating a false allegation? If they do not, and I was David Warner, I would be very very annoyed. In 2014 Warner was fined 15% of his match fee for commenting on various South African practices to rough up the ball (and he did not even call them illegal as far as I recall). Surely if a player can be sanctioned then the ICC should take an even stronger line against a national ruling body which spreads false allegations?

      • Agreed it is unlikely but do they have the power – and shouldn’t a journo ask Warner if he is going to ask for his 15% back if the ICC do not act?

  • I’m very pleased that you got this off your chest James. You have spoken for most of us, I’m sure, if not for all of us. There are times these days when it’s difficult to tell.

    Now that our views in general have been given, in no uncertain terms, it’s best to ignore this petty and unsavoury behaviour from the Australians. There is nothing to be gained by adding grist to the mill.

    I did enjoy your broken water pistol analogy. Even through a downside, you are still bringing a laugh. :-)

  • Where’s Tom? Surely he has something incisive to say about this? Something that will prove that they were right to exaggerate this and put the Aussies in the right???????

    • I’m touched that you should miss me but no, not really. I’m not an expert on “ball scuffing” but it sounds like a storm in a teacup. And I’m no more inclined to defend Australian tabloid press than British tabloid press. That’s called consistency, folks. You could learn a thing or too about it.

      But if you guys already know exactly how the Australian media works, as you say, then you shouldn’t let it worry you. That is, after all, the objective: to stir the Poms and then give them shit when they claim they’ve been bullied by the media. It’s as routine as a three-card trick but you guys go for it every time. See headbuttgate.

      The game is to provoke the Poms to the point where they don’t know whether to fight fire with fire or simply turn the other cheek. If the Poms give it back, Aussies have permission to take it further. If they turn the other cheek, Aussies laugh at them anyway for being soft. It’s like a Chinese-Australian finger trap and the Poms have sticky thumbs. All Australians are in on it. Surely this is not a secret? Have you guys heard about drop bears?

      On another note, and I may be wrong here, but didn’t the English go to town on the Pakistanis with (tenuous?) allegations of ball-tampering back in the days of Wasim and Waqar? I can’t remember the exact details but weren’t they slightly trumped up? That’s an honest question, not a dick in your ear.

      • I don’t think there were many unfair allegations of ball tampering in the 90s…..simply because it was rampant and indulged in by all sides (remember Mike Atherton and his pocketful of dirt?). If you made a random allegation against any seamer in those days you had a very good chance of being right. It has only died down because of the huge number of cameras (official and private) continually monitoring every action.


          Having read that, it sounds like there was bad faith on both sides. Nothing was proven – although it might have been had people been free to talk more openly. It’s conjecture or conspiracy, depending who you ask.

          However, it’s worth noting that the Daily Mirror ran a front-page story, quoting Allan Lamb, headlined: “How Pakistan Cheat at Cricket”. Was that fair game?

      • Just kidding, Tom. I’ve appreciated many (if not quite all) of your comments here. You argue a good case.

        • But now you mention it, there was in fact a second shooter on the grassy knoll. He was working for the ECB.

          • Too right. It was the drawn ’62-’63 Ashes series that meant Australia retained the urn which was ultimately responsible. Somebody had to pay and JFK was the fall guy – everybody knows that. If senior players had performed better history might’ve been different…
            (Nurse, do I really have to take these tablets?)

      • Why should we be surprised. Oz is the home of the tabloid press. Freedom without responsibility. Anything to create some good ol’ fashioned pommie bashing publicity around what was becoming an increasingly turgid affair. As we see in soccer action replays every week cameras lie repeatedly. There is no privacy on a sports field any more. No cricketer should ever do anything to the ball without being in full view of the umpires. This covers their backs.

  • Thus far I have avoided saying ‘told you so’ to all the trolls on social media yesterday. I was inundated with angry Aussies calling us cheats. I imagine they feel pretty stupid now that the truth is out there.

    • Well their little bubble of controversy didn’t last long.

      The real point here is that there wasn’t anything interesting enough to talk about from the cricket. On the one hand they’re terrified that the ball might move in the air or off the seam, on the other it leads to a test so dull that even Warner can’t liven it up.

      In fact maybe the ECB did have a strategy after all. Send a side so dull ( Right arm over 83mph) that they would lose but hurt the viewing and attendance figures? Hit them where it hurts, in their pockets.

      It’s as good a theory as any. :)

      Other than the Barmy Army the most entertaining part of the whole shebang has been watching a groundsman get hit by the covers.

  • Chill James! There are far more important things to get angry about. It’s not as if our own media are shining angels.

    There is a one word response to stories like this – bollocks. Works for almost everything.

  • It’s premeditated, organised and dull as dish water.

    Frankly Anderson should sue them for libel as that is clearly what is happening here. I think too many teams have given them the benefit of the doubt, usually when in a winning position.

    • It’s less premeditated than instinctive.

      How do soldier ants know to protect the queen? How do baby birds learn to fly?

      Likewise, Australians are going to piss in your Pommie pockets at every opportunity. Particularly when the cricket is over prematurely. I thought you folks knew this?

      • The tabloid press will get up to all sorts. You kind of expect that. But I expect better from the official broadcaster and Cricket Australia’s own website.,

        • Had they ignored it, they’d have left themselves open to charges of self-censorship.

          Put it out there. Let people decide for themselves.

    • Perhaps not wise. It would be rather like an old time rape trial, where the past behaviour of the victim becomes the focus of the trial in order to discredit the case (and it would not just be past ball tampering allegations such as those in South Africa in 2010 but also other matters such as what really happened in the Duckett saga).

      • …or what he allegedly said to George Bailey at Brisbane on the last tour to provoke the infamous broken arm response from Clarke, or what he said to Ravi Jajeda that time. Probably quite a long list.

      • With libel I’d think not.

        As James said it’s boring but has inarguably damaged Jimmy’s reputation. Which is illegal for good reason.

        He’s a public figure and a role model. The correct thing to do here is punish the perps through the proper channels.

            • No, I agree Mike.

              England shouldn’t stand for this kind of bullying. Everyone should hold hands and create a safe space for English cricketers while in Australia. I’m with you on that 100 percent.

  • Not at all interested in this ‘ball-tampering’ malarkey! Fake news? Previous submissions have discussed why we are not punching our weight against average sides. My mate Tom castigates me and others for blaming the ECB. Firstly, it is not their fault that, individually, our team has underperformed. Each player knows that. My beef is that the ECB has, by effectively sidelining CC as a sideshow (this season’s schedule again!), we are not playing the type of cricket that produces Test cricketers. Using an Americanism, I would say to the ECB ‘s**t or get off the pot!’ If big bashes are the way forward, accept that we will always have a mediocre Test side and admit it. If their goal is to produce Test sides capable of competing with others then CC comes first. Interested to hear other views as I believe the CC v Big Bash cricket is the crux of the matter.

  • Well haven’t seen the footage yet, just a photo which looked like Anderson was picking the seam. But I’ll go along with what’s being said here that it’s another storm in a tea cup. Look though England fall for this baiting, sledging nonsense all the time. They’ve been doing it since 1882 for Christ’s sake. Its what they do and we never learn. I used to live there and you soon learn to either ignore the comments or give back what you get. Most time it all ends in a laugh and a beer. England don’t half whinge about minor things.

    • Is it because the English masters expect to be greeted with deference by the colonists and are confused when it’s not forthcoming?

      Surely the Australians should know their place.

    • The footage merely shows Anderson using his thumb nail to smooth down a tuft. The opposite to digging his nails into it.

      If you play it backwards, which one wouldn’t put beyond them, it might look like he was scraping with his nail…

      Whingers will whinge. It’s not news and if it wasn’t this then it would be something else.

  • If the umpires say it’s nothing I think we can go with that. I think Tom is right in saying the Australian media instinctively wind up the Poms and the best thing to do is treat it with the contempt it deserves. Unfortunately the ECB seems to have decided that it has to be “proactive” and respond to every “incident” whether real or fake news. Turning to the match a target of 140 to 150 in about 30 overs would make a good end.

    • Why would Aus declare or go for it ?


      1) ashes are already won
      2) deny England a win
      3) sap England’s morale even further than in their best test this series on a feather bed vs a team missing their X factor bowler with another ill All one day and a capt Ill another… make them bowl and bowl and bowl and bowl
      4) why on earth do Aus need to win or risk losing ?? England need to win so it was up to England to declare and force the game. Yet again, white ball lack of tactical thinking has meant England who need to force a result can’t.

      No one to blame but this England set up

      As for the back tampering.. this just about sums up the modern game with both sides at it and both sides going ‘it’s ok, it’s gamesmanship and everyone is at it’

      Well, everyone is at building nukes and yet we all know nukes aren’t about teams take some responsibility and act properly and Justin play the bloody game in the right spirit

      • I look forward to your five-point presentation laying out the Evidence for the earth not being flat.

  • It’s been a particularly dull tour thus far and the stands looked very empty. I can’t recall a duller one.

    Would you pay to watch Bird bowl or Cook make a double if he wasn’t English? Can’t see anyone flocking to the ground because Khawaja was batting. Warner and Smith, sounds good. 1 run per over you say? Maybe not…

    The poms are cheating, please please please come and support us?

      • Don’t know don’t care. Looked empty and half of the almost sellout crowd on boxing day left early apparently.

        Big crowds at the BBL and it’s usually bloody good. The test series hasn’t exactly been an advert, quite the opposite.

        • So you want to make an argument about how the game has been poorly attended but you have no idea about the actual attendance?

          OK then.

          • No I made a point about the stadium being empty. Based upon seeing the stadium empty.

            You have to have a whinge about it.

            • Yet you have no idea whether the match was actually well attended or not.

              But yeah, super convincing stuff from you, as usual.

              • Ahh… right… Ok…

                Yes my precious, the stadium was packed everyday.
                Stewards must have been handing out seat coloured t shirts as a sign of support for Smith’s dismals.

    • Only 80k for Boxing Day and over 20k for a dead rubber game here the Aussies (home team) are not overly interested and losing (or saving the game I should say)..

      I’d say 20k for a wet day when you’re saving the game is pretty darn good !!!

      I agree it’s been low quality but then I’ve said it’ll be low quality for months

      • I had low expectations too. Sadly the flair players have been stifled. Warner and Moeen especially. Even his century wasn’t really a contest.

        Are those figures good for the 4th day of an Ashes test? It holds 100k I believe.

        The ECB relies upon it’s home Ashes series to boost it’s revenue, suspect the CA is in a better place with the BBL but might mitigate the unwarranted controversy if they were feeling the pinch.

        It was certainly empty after we bowled them out for 98 a few years back. Not sure what is considered normal though…

        • From cricinfo: A crowd of 14128 on this final day, and a massive 262,616 for the game.

          What a pathetic turnout.

          • Lol

            5000 of them were the Barmy army alone.

            Don’t blame me for the Aussie fans not wanting to watch their interesting cricket team play.

  • Well this test match has been boring so far with the puddle of a pitch, so the media naturally turn to something to else to wind up the spectators.

  • Hi James. Haven’t commented on this site for a few years but enjoy your articles. In Australia at the moment,Back home in Melbourne. England have played well and that has been acknowledged over here. Aussies love test match cricket and are extremely passionate about the ashes. The media is our 12th man over here so it’s normal for them to give the team a dig out when their struggling. You sound outraged James. Love it when a good plan comes together

  • The delicious irony of the British complaining about the press in other countries.

    Stories about onfield behaviour it’s just not cricket, digging up player extra-martial affairs is cricket apparently.

  • And let’s not forget the British press running a story saying they has evidence the Perth Ashes tear could be fixed but “no English players involved”.

  • Having seen the footage, storm in a teacup. Nothing illegal here at all. Just another Aussie wind up that we fall hook, line and dinner for. Ignore it.

  • Well barring a phone call from Delhi it’s a bore draw.

    Have to feel sorry for the fans that travelled, many of them for this test.

    Getting there with the series lost to watch the scintillating day one, which even the home fans walked out on. Tells you something about Smith’s batting.

    Warner and Starc aside in entertainment terms it’s a really bad Australian team. Not helped by the wickets I guess but doubt they’d be very interesting on livelier tracks. Khawaja might be most listless cricketer I’ve ever seen. And the rest don’t make him look like an outlier.

    Let’s hope Sydney produces a game worth watching.

    • I don’t feel sorry for the travelling fans. Travelling means they’re no longer in England. They should thank their lucky stars.

      As for entertainment value, I tell you what: after this series is done, we can play the ‘entertainment value Ashes’.

      If England win that, everything will have evened out nicely.

      • Been working on your variations I see!

        A bit shriller, with a higher pitched whine and a bitter follow through. :)

        • How can a written word be “high-pitched”? My goodness, you’re incoherent, aren’t you?

          As for being bitter, on the contrary. Pissing in your pocket is an absolute lark.

          My only disappointment is that you offer so little resistance, like a pull-string doll with 1-2 pre-recorded responses. Oh well.

  • Thirteen overs from Moeen in the second innings… on that pitch. Absurd.
    A half decent spinner might well have won the match.

  • Selection headache after images appear to show a contravention of the spirit of test cricket.

    Whilst England drew at the MCG to avoid a whitewash they face serious problems in their bowling department. Images broadcast live appeared to show one of them contravening the spirit if not the letter of the laws.

    “It was dodgy, but probably just about legal.” commented England’s deputy quinoa chef.

    “He wasn’t doing it for very long and I don’t think it had any effect upon the game. I think we can take the positives and put it behind us. Would you like some quinoa? We’ve got lots left.”

    Victor Trump of Cricket Australia on the other hand refused to let the matter lie. “Kids were watching.”

    “How are we meant to sell the BBL when Moeen goes out and provides entertainment for 13 balls?”

    “I don’t think it was a transgression. He wasn’t there for long enough to get anyone to actually watch. It’s one of those grey areas in test match creecket where it depends upon the conditions. I’d describe it as teasing rather than actual entertainment and the Aussies are making too much of it.” opined Sir Geoffrey.

    “He’s clearly got an issue with his batting” he continued. “Hasn’t he watched the series so far? It was brainless creeekeet. We had them in a good position with the Barmy Army outnumbering their fans and he gives it away. England have to drop him even though his bowling has been a key feature of this series”.

    “I have to agree with Geoffrey” lamented Graeme Swann. “The feeling within the England camp is that his issues with q tip disposal and beard combing are manifesting themselves on the field. Jimmy needs to have a word, he was brilliant, an absolute superstar. He’d bring 3 hairdryers on tour just in case one of mine broke down. That’s the example that England need to follow”.

    If Moeen is dropped it leaves England with a real headache at the spin friendly SCG.

    “The locker is pretty bare.” admitted Ken Oathcarn. “We tried Craig Overton but he wasn’t a success. Kept on taking wickets, hitting runs, diving about in the field and providing hope as well as entertainment. He literally bust a gut thankfully. There’s no-one else capable of sticking to Harrison’s 83mph speed limit and that only leaves Mason Crane.”

    “It’s a big call that’s for sure.” said espn’s cricketing crumpet Melinda Farrell. “Have you ever seen a boring spinner? Well, apart from Michael Vaughan of course, who now claims he was one.”

    “Ahhhh once got Sachin Tendulkar.” droned Vaughan. “Eee were smashin thee all over t’park till I started talkin to im. ‘Is eyes glazed over and ee let me bowl im off stump after that”.

    “England have worked really hard to match Australia in the series. It’s been difficult but luckily Cook set a high bar to bore which Smith and Warner really struggled with. One run per over was a good effort though picking Jackson Bird and allowing the Barmy Army back into the test backfired. They were dangerously entertaining at times.” Said Farrell.

    “If they can get to Crane, get him under 53mph without variation and outside off stump then I think he’ll play. They’ve already flirted with wrist spin in Dawid Malan and, whilst dangerous, he hasn’t entirely let them down. He’s shown that legspin can be innocuous in Australia which I think England will take heart from.”


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