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Australian players reignite row over spirit of Ashes cricket with accusations of hypocrisy in England

In a dramatic moment just before lunch on the final day of the fifth Test at the Oval, Stokes appeared to have caught Steve Smith slipping leg off Moeen Ali’s bowling, only to dislodge the ball with his own knee during his follow-through.

Smith was sent off by referee Joel Wilson on the field and after a debate between England’s defensive players, Stokes chose to review the decision. The television umpire upheld Wilson’s decision, although Stokes and England were frustrated at losing a review, given that umpires have the option of going upstairs themselves to check whether a catch was taken cleanly.

A number of Australian stars, including Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head and Smith, were asked about the incident in interviews shared on Australian broadcaster ABC’s social media channels.

“Looking at him and watching his body language, he knew it wasn’t out of the question,” Smith said. “It was an interesting choice to go upstairs because I’m pretty sure he knew he threw the ball.

“I just said, ‘Here’s your spirit of cricket luck’.”

Head, who was knocking on the other end of the line, added: “Steve had some choice words at that point, that’s when you can see him pointing, wondering if this is again the gray area of ​​the cricketing mind. I actually found the whole thing quite funny.

The debate over the spirit of cricket had dominated the series following the controversy over Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal during the second Test at Lord’s.

The wicketkeeper was perplexed as Alex Carey had wandered out of his crease, wrongly assuming the end of the match had been called.

England did not dispute that the referees’ decision was correct, but Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum claimed they would have recalled an Australian player in similar circumstances.

Reacting to the incident at the Oval in the ABC clip, opening batter Usman Khawaja called the spirit of cricket a “fickle line”, while Labuschagne added: “The spirit of the game is out now, the shoe is on the other foot. »

“They’re kind of talking about being in the spirit of the game and I’m not sure that’s the case, so it’s a little disingenuous, I would say,” all-rounder Cameron Green said.

Stokes himself criticized the ongoing Ashes fallout from Down Under in an interview last week, after a separate Channel 7 report included Australian players mocking England’s apparent celebration of a 2-2 series draw.

“I made a very conscious effort, once the Ashes were over, to make it happen. I can’t say the same about the opposition,” Stokes told the Telegraph. “I do not understand what is happening. They can do whatever they want, but it’s weird.

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