Ben Stokes caught in 'spirit of cricket' furore over 'shameful' act in fifth Test

The England captain sparked anger after controversial scenes involving Steve Smith.

Ben Stokes in action during the fifth Ashes Test.
Ben Stokes called for a review even though he appeared to know it wasn't out. Image: Getty

Ben Stokes was involved in controversial scenes on the final day of the fifth Ashes Test after he opted to use a review on a catch that he appeared to clearly know he hadn't taken legally. Stokes jumped up to take a one-handed catch after the ball ricocheted off Steve Smith's glove to leg-slip just before lunch.

The England captain took the ball cleanly but accidentally let go of it as he was about to throw it up in celebration. It brought back memories of Herschelle Gibbs' infamous dropped catch at the 1999 World Cup when Steve Waugh allegedly told him "you just dropped the World Cup".

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Stokes immediately knew he hadn't completed the catch under ICC laws, which state players must be in full control of their body even while celebrating a catch. But the England captain opted to use a review anyway after appearing to be talked into it by his teammates.

The England players didn't appear to realise that Stokes had fumbled the ball and advised him to use the review thinking he'd completed the catch. Under Law 33.3 of the official rule book: “The act of making a catch shall start from the time when the ball first comes into contact with a fielder’s person and shall end when a fielder obtains complete control over both the ball and his/her own movement."

It was an easy decision for the third umpire because Stokes was never in control during his celebratory throw, but the England captain appeared to convince himself that he had completed the catch. Stokes was involved in a heated argument with the umpires as the players left the field for lunch, although some suggested he was unhappy that he'd lost a review in the process of checking the catch, rather than disagreeing with the actual decision.

Ben Stokes, pictured here dropping the ball as he was throwing it up in celebration.
Ben Stokes dropped the ball as he was throwing it up in celebration. Image: Getty

Cricket world turns on Ben Stokes over 'shameful' scenes

The 'spirit of cricket' has been a big talking point throughout the Ashes series, with England left fuming over Jonny Bairstow's dismissal in the second Test when he was stumped by Alex Carey after unwittingly walking out of his crease. So it was only fair that cricket fans turned the tables on Stokes on Sunday for reviewing a catch he clearly knew he hadn't completed, before arguing with the umpires to boot.

Former Aussie Test bowler Chadd Sayers tweeted: “How funny. Spirit of cricket when it’s on their terms.

“Knew he dropped it and still went up for review …. Now arguing with (the umpires) walking off. Can’t have it both ways Stokesy!”

Ben Stokes, pictured here arguing with umpires Joel Wilson and Kumar Dharmasena.
Ben Stokes argued with umpires Joel Wilson and Kumar Dharmasena following the review. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Sports journalist Ronny Lerner commented: “Never looked like he controlled it in real time. He would’ve known it, and yet he still reviewed. The captain of the country no less Piers Morgan!! Why I never!! What a scandal! Spirit of cricket has officially died old boy.”

Others described Stokes' actions as 'embarrassing' and 'pathetic'.

Stokes' mishap didn't end up costing England, who went on to win by 49 runs. Australia suffered collapses of 4-11 and 7-70 to be all out for 334 in their attempt to chase down an Oval record of 384. The win for England sealed a 2-2 series draw and denied Australia their first outright series victory on English soil since 2001.

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