In a dramatic moment just before lunch on the final day of the Fifth Test at the Oval, Stokes appeared to have caught Steve Smith at leg-slip off Moeen Ali’s bowling, only to dislodge the ball with his own knee during his follow-through.
Smith was given not-out by umpire Joel Wilson on the field and after debate among England’s fielders, Stokes opted to review the decision. The TV umpire confirmed Wilson’s ruling, though Stokes and England were frustrated at losing a review, given umpires have the option of going upstairs themselves to check whether a catch has been taken cleanly.
A number of Aussies stars, including Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head and Smith, were asked about the incident during interviews shared on Australian broadcaster ABC’s social media channels.
“Looking at him and watching his body language, he knew it was not out,” Smith said. “It was an interesting choice to go upstairs because I’m pretty sure he knew that he’d thrown the ball away.
“I just said: ‘Here’s your spirit of cricket chance’.”
Head, who was batting at the other end, added: “Steve had some choice words at the time, which is when you can see him pointing, questioning whether that’s the grey area of the spirit of cricket again. I actually found it all pretty funny.”
Debate over the spirit of cricket had dominated the series following the controversy of Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal during the Second Test at Lord’s.
The wicketkeeper was given out stumped by Alex Carey having wandered out of his crease, wrongly assuming that the end of the over had been called.
England did not contest that the umpires’ decision had been correct, but both Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum claimed they would have recalled an Australian player in similar circumstances.
🏏 Ben Stokes caught it — then dropped it — then reviewed it.
We asked the Aussie cricketers what they thought of that moment, and whether it fell under the Spirit of Cricket... 😂
Listen to all the action from the ODI World Cup to the Test summer on your ABC listen app. pic.twitter.com/CmyEWuxMqk
— ABC SPORT (@abcsport) September 27, 2023
Reacting to the Oval incident in the ABC clip, opening batter Usman Khawaja called the spirit of cricket a “fickle line”, while Labuschagne added: “The spirit of the game’s out now the shoe’s on the other foot.”
“They kind of speak about being within the spirit of the game and I’m not sure if that is, so it’s a bit hypocritical I’d say,” said all-rounder Cameron Green.
Stokes himself criticised the ongoing Ashes fallout coming from Down Under in an interview last week, after a separate Channel 7 feature included Australian players mocking England’s apparent celebration of a 2-2 series draw.
“I made a very conscious effort, once the Ashes was done, to let it be done. I can’t say the same about the opposition,” Stokes told the Telegraph. “I don’t understand what’s going on with it. They can do what they want, but it’s bizarre.”