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Ben Stokes fumes at Marnus Labuschagne act as Ashes 'cheating' storm erupts

The Aussie batter was involved in multiple instances of controversy on day four at Old Trafford.

Ben Stokes and Marnus Labuschagne.
Ben Stokes took aim at Marnus Labuschagne for inspecting the new ball. Image: Getty/Bharat Sundaresan.

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?"

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.

Marnus Labuschagne.
England were certain Marnus Labuschagne had nicked the ball, but the umpire didn't raise the finger. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

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.

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