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England in the spotlight over ball treatment

Questions raised over footage of James Anderson with ball as Mitchell Johnson queries early reverse swing

UPDATE - 7:27pm AEDT

Imputations that England’s bowlers altered the condition of the ball in a bid to try and extract reverse swing were stridently rejected this evening by their coach Trevor Bayliss and summarily dismissed as a “beat-up” by officiating umpires and ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle.

The ‘incident that never was’ grew out of observations made by commentators at the MCG during the fourth day of the fourth Magellan Ashes Test, and other ‘experts’ who interpreted footage of England’s James Anderson pushing his left thumb into the ball’s surface as an item of potential interest.

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England's treatment of the new ball has been put under the spotlight on the fourth morning at the MCG after the tourists were spoken to by umpires.

Umpires S Ravi and Kumar Dharmasena spoke to England captain Joe Root after Stuart Broad threw the ball from mid-on that bounced well short of wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow on the hard wicket block.

And television cameras captured Jimmy Anderson paying close attention to the quarter-seam that runs down the face of the ball.

"I'm not sure you are allowed to use your fingernail there," Shane Warne said on Nine's Wide World of Sports broadcast.

"If you are going to touch the ball at all, it's not just shining it, you want to do it right in front of the umpire so they know there is nothing untoward going on. But I'm not sure that Jimmy Anderson ... this might get some people talking."

'There might be a please explain for Anderson'

Co-commentator Michael Slater added: "You can't get your nail into the ball. That's a no-no."

Former Australia batsman Michael Hussey said Anderson could face censure for the episode.

"It didn't look great, to be honest. There might be a little bit of a 'please explain' there for Jimmy Anderson.

"I know there's a lot of tactics, but there's a bit of a line there that you shouldn't cross in picking the seam of the ball and things like that.

"The English have been throwing the ball into the ground to try and scuff one side up, but that's nothing the Aussies weren't doing either and the umpires are generally on top of that pretty quickly.

"But certainly getting a thumb nail into the ball is against the rules. So it'll be interesting to see what happens and if anything plays out there."

Former Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson wondered on social media how England had got the ball to start reverse swinging at just 10 overs old.

Johnson added: "I have no issue with both teams throwing into turf at the stumps as long as that’s all it is.

"Wouldn't have thought the ball could reverse so quickly. Oh well."

Hussey said getting the ball to reverse swing was a potent weapon for the bowling side. 

"The pitch is pretty flat and they've got to look at other ways to put the batsmen under pressure and reverse swing is one of the weapons they can use.

"They do it very well, the English, they're well-versed in this area.

"To get it to go so early is a real bonus because the ball is still quite hard so it will go quite quickly. Whereas it seemed to take the Aussies a fair bit longer to get that reverse swing and once the ball gets softer, it does it a bit slower."

Australia fast bowler Pat Cummins said the home side had found the ball started to reverse between the 20 and 30 over mark which "makes you feel like you're in the game" on an otherwise benign surface that provided little assistance to seamers. 

Alyssa Healy, the Australia women's team wicketkeeper and wife of injured fast bowler Mitchell Starc, suggested the match referee may take an interest.

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test Australia won by an innings and 41 runs. Scorecard

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21