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Ashes ball-change controversy takes new twist as 'ludicrous' claim slammed

Surrey County Cricket Club have fired back at staggering suggestions from the owner of Dukes Cricket Balls.

Umpires select a much newer ball during the fifth Ashes Test.
England were given a much newer ball than the one that was previously doing nothing in the fifth Ashes Test. Image: Sky Sports/Getty

A spokesperson for Surrey County Cricket Club has shot down "ludicrous" suggestions that an old Dukes ball could have been used in the fifth Ashes Test at the The Oval. Controversy erupted on the final day of the series finale after the umpires replaced a 37-over ball with one that looked a lot harder and newer.

Australia lost three quick wickets as the replacement ball produced a lot more swing and seam, falling from 0-135 while the original ball was in use. The tourists eventually lost by 49 runs, missing out on the chance to win their first Ashes series in England since 2001.

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The controversy has continued in the days that have followed, and the owner of Dukes Cricket Balls vowed to launch an investigation on Saturday. Dilip Jajodia added to speculation that a ball from a previous batch (not a ball from the 2023 batch) could have found its way into the box of replacement balls.

Jajodia said it was Surrey's responsibility to supply the replacement balls, not the ECB or ICC, appearing to lay the blame on the English club who play their home games at The Oval. In an interview with News Corp, Jajodia explained how every ball produced for a specific season had the date stamped on it and while "it's not likely", he admitted a ball from a different year could have been used.

"I can't imagine they would risk putting a ball in there with a different date on it. Frankly, the match referee should be on top of it," Jajodia said.

"We do bang that number in quite hard, so even if the gold comes off, the ball is imprinted. It wouldn't be easy to get rid of it. I'm not saying it's impossible (that it was a 2018 or 2019 ball), but it's not likely.

"I'm going to investigate myself because it affects me. My name is at stake so it's important they don't misallege something was wrong with the ball."

But a Surrey spokesperson has since told Britain's PA news agency: "Mr Jajodia is correct to say that Duke's balls are supplied to The Oval and to Surrey CCC ahead of the season for use in matches and training. These balls can also be used as match replacements, as seen during the Test.

"There were a wide selection of balls available to the umpire's at all times, with a variety of conditions to choose from, and that decision is entirely at their discretion. We reject entirely the assertion that a ball from 2018 or 2019 could have been available for selection and think the suggestion itself is ludicrous."

Ben Stokes and umpire Joel Wilson in the fifth Ashes Test.
Ben Stokes talks with umpire Joel Wilson after he requested the ball to be changed. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

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Usman Khawaja, who fell victim to the replacement ball, said he felt like the replacement was around eight overs old rather than 37. Umpires are supposed to find a like-for-like replacement in the event that the ball goes out of shape and needs changing.

Khawaja also made the extraordinary claim that umpire Joel Wilson told him there were no better options than the one that was selected, despite there appearing to be a number of older balls in the box. “I walked straight up to Kumar (Dharmasena) and said straightaway, ‘That ball looks nothing like the one we were playing with. I can see writing on it’,” Khawaja said after the match. “It felt harder than any ball I‘ve faced in this Ashes series – and I’ve opened the batting against the new ball every single time.

“I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on – you’ve gone from an old, reverse (swinging) ball to a brand new ball’. I asked Joel again today, ‘How are we using this ball right now? It’s so new’. And he said, ‘There was nothing else in the box’." England opener Zak Crawley later admitted the controversial new ball "made the difference" for England as they salvaged a 2-2 series draw.

with AAP

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