By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Ashes 2023 produced high quality entertainment for the cricket fans as all five Test matches between England and Australia witnessed fierce battles for supremacy and probably it was in the fitness of things that the series was drawn in the end although the home fans were left to rue the rain-affected fourth Test in which the visitors were fighting hard to avoid a crushing defeat.
There were a lot of headliners in the decisive fifth and final Test at the Kia Oval but the on-field umpires Joel Wilson of the West Indies and Kumar Dharmasena became the centre of controversy for their decision of changing the ball in the 37th over of Australia’s second innings.
The replacement ball brought about a dramatic change in England’s fortunes and the struggling bowlers soon became lethal to alter complexion of the game. It became obvious that the changed ball was significantly harder and newer than the ball that had been used previously. The vastly experienced English bowlers, hungry for success, fully exploited the situation and Australia, until then firmly in control, lost their 10 wickets in 58.3 overs after the ball change. England managed to win the game after being in serious danger of losing it for all money.
"At the end of the day, if you are going to change the ball, you want to make sure that you get it right, so you make it as close as you possibly can to the one that you're changing it from. Now if you have a look in that box, there weren't too many older-condition balls in there. There were some older ones that were picked up, the umpires looked at that and threw them back,” he pointed out.
"I just cannot fathom how two international umpires that have done that a lot of times before can get that so wrong. That is a huge moment in this game, potentially a huge moment in the Test match, and something I think actually has to be investigated: whether there was the right condition of balls in the box, or the umpires have just, blasé, picked one out of there that they think will be okay to use," Ponting lashed out.
"The conditions were perfect for bowling this morning, let's say that. The conditions were better for bowling this morning. But what I saw last night, that ball there, I'll put my hand up and say I've got absolutely no doubt at all that that ball would not have done anywhere near as much as what that one did this morning. Double the amount of movement this morning from yesterday afternoon, seam movement and swing. I think it's a huge blunder that needs to be investigated," he elaborated.