Marnus Labuschagne was involved in controversy on a number of fronts on the fourth day of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford. The Aussie batter broke a drought of 22 innings without a Test century, making 111 to give his side a glimmer of hope of saving the match and retaining the Ashes urn.
There were only 30 overs bowled on a frustrating day for England, as heavy rain caused delays at the start of play and saw it halted early. Labuschagne took full advantage of England's inability to use their fast bowlers due to the poor light, before he was eventually dismissed by Joe Root when he edged a ball to keeper Jonny Bairstow.
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But Labuschagne's innings didn't come without controversy after England captain Ben Stokes took exception to his request to inspect a new ball that umpires had opted to use. The ball was changed when Stokes alerted the umpires that it was out of shape, and Labuschagne showed his quirkiness when he asked to take a look at the new one they'd chosen.
As journalist Bharat Sundaresan highlighted, Stokes wasn't pleased with Labuschagne's actions and gave the Aussie batter "a piece of his mind". Labuschagne explained the moment in his press conference after play, saying: "If you look at the ball once, you can pretty much tell straight away what it's going to do.
"I looked at the ball and I was like, 'well, this is going to swing'. They were obviously not very happy with (me doing) that. It's just being meticulous. I mean, it was pretty common sense. Like, why would I not want to have a look at the ball?"
Never heard of a batsman being able to comment on a ball change. That's between the fielding side and the umpires
— Neil Roberts (@neiljroberts1) July 22, 2023
Unless it’s Australia they can’t keep their mouths shut
— Tom (@Tomsomers08) July 22, 2023
Ben Stokes moans about everything while setting himself up as the moral arbiter of the spirit of cricket
— GoonerOz (@GoonerOz) July 22, 2023
Marnus Labuschagne embroiled in 'cheating' furore
If the incident didn't ruffle England's feathers enough, Labuschagne was also involved in drama surrounding his dismissal. The former World No.1 batter got a thick outside edge that Bairstow finally grasped after a bobble, but the umpire failed to raise the finger despite huge appeals from the hosts.
Stokes was forced to use a DRS review, with replays showing a clear edge and confirming Labuschagne's dismissal. The Queenslander was booed by spectators as he left the field, with many believing he should have walked straight away and not waited for the umpire's decision.
It sparked memories of Stuart Broad from 2013 when the Englishman failed to walk despite edging the ball to Michael Clarke at first slip. On that occasion there was no DRS available, and Broad survived because umpire Aleem Dar didn't think he'd nicked it.
Commentator Rob Stanton wrote on Twitter: “How has Labuschagne not walked there. Poor”. Fellow commentator Rob Oldfield commented: “They’ll never walk unless umpire raises the finger.... same old Aussies”.
A number of fans labelled Labuschagne's actions as "cheating", while some suggested he was trying to waste time due to the fact rain was inevitably going to strike. If that was Labuschagne's plan it certainly worked, with players unable to return to the field after tea due to heavy downpours.
It left England highly frustrated as they only managed to snare one of the six Aussie wickets they required for victory. Mitch Marsh (31) and Cameron Green (3) were not out at the close of play, with Australia 5-214 and only 61 runs away from forcing England to bat again.
Rain is also forecast to affect the final day's play on Sunday, but a number of windows could be available to allow England to strive for the final five wickets. Australia only need a draw at Old Trafford to retain the Ashes, but England need to win the final two matches.
Labuschagne was clearly out. What was he thinking?
Same old Aussies, always cheating ... goes crowd loud at Old Trafford
— Basit Subhani (@BasitSubhani) July 22, 2023
Labuschagne with a massive edge and he doesn't walk? Same old Aussies, always cheating! #ashes
— Mike Cox (@TheComedy_Mike) July 22, 2023
labuschagne knows he edged that and didn’t walk. Disgusting Aussies always cheating
— Bob (@FPLPilot) July 22, 2023
Any comment on Labuschagne not walking?
And you wonder why you lot get offended. Everyone knows that Aussie cricketers are up for cheating.
— Carlos TheJackal (@KingCarlos1st) July 22, 2023
All those Aussies that always chirp up about Stuart Broad not walking, I ask you why didn’t Marnus Labuschagne just walk at that? Blatantly hit it and obviously knew he’d hit it when he nodded at Marsh.
Same old Aussies, always cheating. #Ashes2023 #Ashes23 #BBCCricket #ENGvAUS
— CJ (@CJMac1892) July 22, 2023
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