Cricket World Cup 2019: England and Pakistan warned over treatment of ball at Trent Bridge

Umpires talk to Sarfaraz Ahmed and Eoin Morgan about alleged attempts to scruff ball during group match

Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed  was given an extended lecture by the umpires about his fielders attempting to scruff the ball. Andrew Boyers / Reuters
Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed  was given an extended lecture by the umpires about his fielders attempting to scruff the ball. Andrew Boyers / Reuters

England and Pakistan were both warned by the umpires over their treatment of the ball in their Cricket World Cup match at Trent Bridge.

During England’s tense run-chase, which ultimately fell 14 runs short, Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was cautioned by umpires Marais Erasmus and Sundaram Ravi on behalf of his side’s outfielders.

Throwing the ball in from the outfield with one bounce back to the wicketkeeper or bowler is deemed acceptable practice.

Any more than that, and officials are wary that sides are attempting to alter the condition of the ball, most usually in pursuit of reverse swing.

At one point, Asif Ali threw the ball in with multiple bounces from the outfield, which visibly vexed both the officials, and his captain.

Shortly after, Sarfaraz was given an extended lecture by the umpires, after which he made a point of getting the attention of each fielder, and raising his index finger to suggest the ball had to be returned with a maximum of just a single bounce.

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On the very next delivery, Mohammed Hafeez fielded the ball and, to avoid any censure – or even the risk of a five-run penalty – ran the ball approximately 50 yards to return it, rather than risk a throw.

The victorious Pakistanis were not the only ones who were culpable. Eoin Morgan, the England captain, said his side had been warned, too.

“The discussions were throughout the whole of the two innings,” Morgan said.

“The umpires came to me after, I can't remember the exact over, but it was mid-innings, and seemed to think that we were throwing the ball in on the bounce too much or it was being over-exaggerated.

“[They] said it would be the same for the both, so the conversations that were stopping the game were where I thought Pakistan were doing the exact same thing.”

Fixtures between these two sides have been beset by issues surrounding the condition of the ball in the past, stretching back to the 1980s when reverse swing first became a widely-known tactic.

As recently as last month, the ICC was forced to make a statement to clear Liam Plunkett, the England bowler, of wrongdoing after an accusation of ball-tampering in a match against Pakistan.

England captain Eoin Morgan conceded his side had been warned about attempting to scruff the ball as well. Andrew Boyers / Reuters
England captain Eoin Morgan conceded his side had been warned about attempting to scruff the ball as well. Andrew Boyers / Reuters

In 2015 at the Dubai International Stadium, Joe Root had an altercation with Wahab Riaz during a Test match, after he apparently felt the fast bowler had scuffed the ball by kicking it.

Root, who made the first century of the World Cup, only to end on the losing side at Trent Bridge, would not be drawn on the latest incident.

“I'm not going to get involved or I'll only get myself in trouble,” Root said.

Jos Buttler also made a ton in the 14-run loss. When he was eventually out, Buttler made a point of stopping during his walk back to the pavilion to inspect the condition of the ball, before throwing it back to the umpires.

“Jos was just intrigued,” Morgan said. “When the ball gets hit against LED [advertising] boards, it does scuff it up quite a lot, and I'm sure he was interested to see if one side was rougher than the other or if it looked natural or unnatural.”

Updated: June 4, 2019 11:28 AM

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