One of Australia’s most respected cricket journalists has made a bold call on Piers Morgan’s Uncensored amid the furore that rages on after Jonny Bairstow’s controversial stumping in the dying throes of the Second Test at Lord’s.
Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey executed one of the most controversial dismissals in recent memory when he caught Bairstow out of his crease and sent the cricket world into a frenzy.
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The Australians were reportedly tripped up and jostled amid torrents of abuse as they made their way through the members in the Long Room, with chants of “cheat” ringing out, and the sporting press in both nations have been in overdrive, with Prime Ministers even getting involved.
Morgan took to Twitter after the match calling for Australian cricket figures to come on his show, saying that Carey’s dismissal was “beyond defending”.
“We can’t get a single Australian cricketer or journalist to come on (the show) to defend yesterday’s outrage,” Morgan wrote. “Any takers? Or should I assume you’ve all realised it’s beyond defending?”
Morgan would host veteran journalist and broadcaster Melinda Farrell before then taking on Peter Lalor, The Australian newspaper’s chief cricket writer.
Listen to the latest episode of Peter Lalor’s podcast called Cricket, Et Cetera wherever you get your podcasts, or press play here –
Across an eight-minute exchange, Morgan spent the first two minutes setting up an elaborate picture of the dismissal, referring to the 2018 ball-tampering scandal and subsequent reforms in Australian cricket in his criticism of the visitors.
“Three years ago, the Australian cricket team were in total global disgrace over Sandpapergate … here we have a chance, three years on, to show that they really have changed their spots,” he said.
Notwithstanding that the ball-tampering saga was more than five years ago and involved a coach in Darren Lehmann that resigned at the time, a captain in Tim Paine that has since long resigned, and a player in Cameron Bancroft that has not played for Australia since 2019, Morgan eventually asked Lalor whether he truly felt comfortable.
“Why didn’t (Australian captain) Pat Cummins withdraw that appeal? You don’t, in your guts, feel comfortable about what you saw, did you?” he asked.
Lalor’s reply was unequivocal.
“100 per cent comfortable,” Lalor said. “Anybody who plays cricket, Piers, knows that the over’s not over, until the umpire calls it over.”
Lalor pointed out that a number of ex-English cricket captains, namely Michael Vaughan, Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss, all were comfortable with the dismissal and sided with the Australians over the polarising dismissal.
“It was out! It was dopey! It was dozy! It was stupid!” Lalor said.
Morgan conceded: “It was out … and he was, from a cricketing perspective, stupid, I don’t disagree with any of that.”
However, Morgan drew attention to a wider argument around the “spirit of the game”, referring to the unique culture of cricket being played not only by a set of Laws, but in a less-defined spirit broadly taken to mean that of sportsmanship and good faith.
Morgan then used, as a comparison, the example of the infamous underarm incident, in which then-Australian captain Greg Chappell instructed his younger brother Trevor, needing to defend six off the final delivery against New Zealand in a one-day international, to bowl the final delivery of the game underarm along the ground to batter Brian McKechnie.
“I would equate to what happened with Trevor Chappell, in I think it was ‘91,” he said (the underarm ball occurred in 1981).
Lalor categorically rejected the comparison.
“No, no, no,” he said. “Trevor Chappell’s act was an extraordinary act, I think we all condemn it.”
Lalor was then interrupted by Morgan, who claimed that former Australian fast bowler Merv Hughes disagreed with the Bairstow dismissal, to which Lalor laughed “That’s our Merv, there’s a joker in every pack.”
Hughes has in fact been steadfast on social media in his support of the dismissal, and went on to call Morgan a “moron”, “attention-seeking” and a “flog” on SENQ over his treatment of the issue.
Lalor continued, noting that Bairstow had attempted the same style of dismissal earlier in the Test match against Marnus Labuschagne who was batting outside his crease.
Morgan said they weren’t the same thing, and labelled Labuschagne as “batting to advantage”.
“He (Bairstow) clearly scrapes his boot. Everyone knows what he’s doing there. He says ‘I’m marking the end of the over.’
“The umpires have started to move away – come on, this is not the Spirit of Cricket.”
While scraping of boots is not referred to in either the Laws of Cricket (or the Spirit, which exists as a preamble to the Laws), the Laws state in Law 17 that “when six valid balls have been bowled and when the ball becomes dead, the umpire shall call over before leaving the wicket,” and at 20.1.2 that the ball “shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batters at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play.
Lalor said that Morgan’s impassioned defence of the ‘spirit of cricket’ was itself misguided.
“You talk about the spirit of cricket, the spirit of cricket talks about accepting the authority of the umpire,” he said. “Of creating a positive atmosphere in the way you play.
“I think English cricket owes Australia an apology – (there was) absolute hooliganism at Lord’s.
“By the members and by the public, and it’s been spurred on by your team, to cover up for the fact that they’re 2-0 down in the Ashes.”
Morgan, recalling the traumas of England’s ill-fated 2013-14 whitewash tour to Australia, said Australians had no right to “lecture on how crowds treat opponents”.
“I was there in 2013-14, where a baying mob were baying for blood – at one stage they were baying for my blood, in a net against Brett Lee,” he said.
Morgan, having heavily criticised the English touring team at the time, accepted the offer to face an over from former Australian quick Brett Lee in the MCG nets, which betrayed his lack of cricketing ability.
Lee at his peak was arguably the most consistently quick bowler in the history of the sport, reaching speeds of up to 161.3km/h, and while recently retired from international cricket at the time, was still contracted and playing for the Sydney Sixers and Kolkata Knight Riders.
Lee would go on to break one of Morgan’s ribs and put him on his backside in a comical display that delighted a day two MCG crowd that filed out of the ground en masse to watch, and left Morgan with what he describes as “PTSD”.
The Third Ashes Test gets underway at Headingley on July 6 at 8pm AEST with Australia looking to take an unassailable lead and secure their first Ashes victory on foreign soil since the turn of the century.