Summer Of Cricket
Top Tens Ashes Special
In association with Buxton, Official Mineral Water of the England Cricket Team

Top ten - 'It's not cricket'

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  • 5 picks out 10 dubious moments in cricket history

England's time-wasting antics on the final day of the drawn Ashes opener in Cardiff drew a furious response from Australia captain Ricky Ponting.

Cricket has tended to pride itself on the upstanding behaviour of the participants - the so-called Spirit of Cricket, which is laid out in the preamble to the MCC's laws of the game.

But Test cricket has certainly evolved since the days of the divide between Gentlemen and Players in the first half of the 20th century and, at times, the game's custodians have been forced to amend the laws in response to various on-field developments. looks back on 10 moments when the Spirit of Cricket has been pushed to the limit.

1932-33 - Bodyline

England's "bodyline" tactics on their 1932-33 tour of Australia led to a huge amount of ill-feeling between the two countries - and even prompted a diplomatic row.

The idea - also known as fast leg theory - was for England's two fast bowlers, Harold Larwood and Bill Voce, to pitch short on a leg-stump line in an effort to create deflections off the bat or gloves for a ring of close fielders behind square on the leg-side.

In an era without helmets and only limited padding, this meant the prospect of serious injury - even death - became very real for Australia's batting line-up, which included Don Bradman.

The situation reached a head during the third Test in Adelaide when England captain Douglas Jardine continued to use bodyline at opposite number Bill Woodfull after he had been felled by a Larwood delivery that hit him just below the heart.

England team manager Pelham Warner visited the Australian dressing room at the close of play, only to be told by Woodfull: "I don't want to see you, Mr Warner. There are two teams out there, one is playing cricket. The other is making no attempt to do so."

Bodyline led to several changes in the laws, most notably umpires were given the power to intervene if they felt a bowler was deliberately attempting to cause injury.

Much later, the number of fielders behind square on the leg-side was limited to just two and, later still, the International Cricket Council limited the number of short deliveries permitted per over.

1979 - Aluminium bat

Australian paceman Dennis Lillee's use of an aluminium bat in a Test against England at Perth in 1979 lasted just four balls.

Lillee had scored three runs before England captain Mike Brearley expressed concerns to the umpires about the impact the metal bat was having on the condition of the ball.

After a lengthy discussion, a unimpressed Lillee was eventually persuaded by his skipper Greg Chappell to change it for a traditional piece of willow.

The incident led to the laws being changed to specify that bats must be made of wood.

1981 - Underarm tactics

New Zealand needed to six to win off the final ball of a one-day international against Australia at the MCG in 1981.

Australia captain Greg Chappell instructed the bowler, who happened to be his younger brother Trevor, to roll the final delivery down the wicket underarm to deny New Zealand batsman Brian McKechnie the opportunity to hit a match-winning six.

McKenchie could do little with the pea roller, blocking it before throwing down his bat in anger.

It did not go down well in New Zealand, whose then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon described it as "the most disgusting incident I can recall in the history of cricket."

1994 - Dirt in the pocket

Mike Atherton faced calls to resign as England captain in 1994 when television cameras appeared to show him ball tampering during the Lord's Test against South Africa.

Atherton later explained that he was rubbing dirt into the ball in an effort to keep it dry - a key to encouraging reverse swing - an act that was maintaining, rather than altering, its condition.

But he failed to come clean to match referee Peter Burge and was fined by chairman of selectors Ray Illingworth.

England lost the match by 356 runs and Atherton, stubbornly refusing to bow to his critics' demands that he quit the captaincy, went on to lead England in a record 54 Tests.

Through the years - Ball tampering

As evidenced by the reaction to Atherton's "dirt in the pocket" moment, ball tampering is one of the more emotive subjects in cricket - with a wide spectrum of views about what is acceptable.

Many accusations have been made over the years, with anecdotal evidence suggesting the practice has been rife across a variety of countries and eras.

Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan admitted he used a bottle top to gouge the ball during a county game during his Sussex days and, more recently, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Sachin Tendulkar have all been punished for ball tampering by the International Cricket Council.

During the Oval Test between England and Pakistan in 2006, the issue exploded into life once again when umpire Darrell Hair docked Pakistan five penalty runs and changed the ball after judging they had altered the condition of the original one.

Pakistan, led by Inzamam-ul-Haq, refused to retake the field after tea on the fourth day and were subsequently aquitted of ball tampering at an International Cricket Council hearing.

1990s - Match fixing

Match fixing cast a dark shadow over cricket in the late 1990s and led to several players receiving life bans.

Those to fall in with the illegal gamblers included three international captains - the late Hansie Cronje, Mohammad Azharuddin and Saleem Malik.

The ICC was forced to confront some uncomfortable truths and set up a dedicated anti-corruption unit in an effort to stamp out the problem.

2000 - Lights out in Karachi

England's pursuit of a victory target of 176 in Karachi for a series win against Pakistan ended in almost total darkness due to the hosts' delaying tactics.

Pakistan captain Moin Khan routinely took an age to set the field, often consulting with several colleagues and then changing his mind at the last moment.

Moin was also vocal in his complaints about the fading light to the umpires.

But umpires Steve Bucknor and Mohammad Nazir stood firm in the face of such blatant gamesmanship, staying out even when the sun had actually set as Graham Thorpe guided England to a famous victory

2005 - Hard to swallow

The ability of England's bowlers to generate swing proved a key factor in Australia's downfall during the 2005 Ashes.

Opening batsman Marcus Trescothick, the team's designated shiner, later admitted that he had sucked Murray Mints in order to produce a saliva that, "when applied to the ball for cleaning purposes, enabled it to keep its shine for longer and therefore its swing."

Trescothick was fortunate not to be caught as, a year earlier, India's Rahul Dravid was fined half his match fee for shining the white ball during a one-day international against Zimbabwe with a piece of lolly that was stuck - he claimed inadvertently - to his finger.

2005 - Ponting looks a Pratt

Another of England's tactics during the 2005 Ashes campaign was for their quartet of fast bowlers to leave the field in order to freshen up at the end of a spell.

The revolving door policy had been apparent throughout the series but became a major talking point when England's subsitute fielder Gary Pratt ran out Australian skipper Ricky Ponting with a superb pick-up and direct hit during the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.

A furious Ponting made his feelings known to the England coach Duncan Fletcher, seated on the balcony, as he stomped his way back to the dressing room.

Pratt's moment of magic earned him an open top bus ride around London with the England team when they celebrated an eventual series win, although he later lost his contract at Durham and drifted out of the professional game.

2009 - Broad makes a point

The flat pitches in the Caribbean prompted England paceman Stuart Broad to devise a bizarre pre-delivery routine in his desperation to make something happen.

The Nottinghamshire seamer occasionally pointed at extra cover in the strides just before delivery, apparently in an effort to distract the batsman's focus.

When he tried it again at the start of the home summer, the International Cricket Council quickly intervened and told him to stop.

Comments (4)

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Sanya Batra says...

There is nothing wrong with Broad's tactics. ICC is rubbish. Everything is going the batsman's way. The pitches are getting flatter, the bats are getting thicker, the batting powerplay rule is unfair, the grounds in South Africa are petite. If bowlers find a way to distract the batsman, ICC bans it. People will get bored seeing so many sixes and fours. Support the bowlers!

Posted 06:10 19th July 2009

Keith Phillips says...

It's a true saying is you can always tell an Aussie but you can't tell them much. Being a Kiwi we play Aussie at all kinds of sports we are only a tiny nation, but can hold our own with the Aussies on a good day. The Aussies motto I'm sure is if we can't beat you one way we will beat you another. Anyway we enjoy England coming out here to play any sport as they are Ladies & gentlemen the way they go about their task of playing the game. Whether it be netball through to rugby league. I think the Aussies problem is that they have a huge problem mentally seeing their forefathers were convicts.

Posted 04:28 16th July 2009

Fred Flinstone says...

obviously because we are english and we prefer to talk about winning than losing

Posted 18:53 14th July 2009

Daniel G says...

Funny how most of these top 10's were committed by England - and they keep bringing up the 'underarm delivery' against the Kiwis as their response. Lucky it was the Kiwis and not the Poms that it happened against or we would still be listening to it (like every football World Cup when England bang on about The Hand of God). Whinging Poms!!!!!p.s. can you get the commentators to stop bringing up 2005, they haven't mentioned the 2006/7 series at all. I wonder why???????

Posted 13:19 14th July 2009

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