Ricky Ponting slams controversial ball change ‘blunder’ that sparked England fightback

The umpires select a replacement ball  - Ashes 2023: Ricky Ponting slams ball change ‘blunder’ that sparked England fightback vs Australia

The umpires select a replacement ball after a Mark Wood delivery crashed into Usman Khawaja’s helmet – Sky Sports

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting led a chorus of voices questioning a ball change that helped England fight back on a tense final morning at the Oval.

Australia needed just 249 to win when play got under way on the fifth day, but lost three early wickets. The successful bowlers Chris Woakes and Mark Wood benefited from more pronounced movement than had been seen on the fourth day.

That may be because of a ball change on the evening of day four, just before rain brought an early close to play. Wood clanged a delivery into Usman Khawaja’s helmet, which led to the ball being changed.

The fourth umpire, David Millns, brought out a box of balls, from which one was selected. TV footage suggested that the replacement ball was newer than the old ball, which had almost 40 overs of use. Some pundits were confused that there did not appear to be a ball that replicated the age of the one it would replace.

Television pictures show the difference between the two balls - Ashes 2023: Ricky Ponting slams ball change ‘blunder’ that sparked England fightback vs Australia

Television pictures showed the difference between the two balls – Sky Sports

“It certainly looks a lot newer than the one they changed from,” Ponting said on Sky.

“Look at how much writing is on the side of that ball… that is a huge contrast to the conditions of the two Dukes balls.

“This is a complete contrast to what we saw bowling conditions-wise yesterday.

“It has got to be this change of ball. There was absolutely nothing happening. Australia dominated. Totally different this morning, that’s for sure.”

Ponting doubled down during the lunch break, describing the incident as a “blunder” that needs to be investigated.

Former England captain Nasser Hussain confessed the situation was “very odd”, declaring the ball change was “madness”.

England had been working hard to find reverse swing, scuffing one side of the ball with their spinners driving it into the wicket. With the old ball, they found next to no movement.

That changed with the new ball, with Australian journalist Louis Cameron reporting that before the ball change the batsmen’s play-and-miss and false shot percentage was 16 per cent and in the 10 overs immediately after it rose to 38 per cent. That included the wickets of David Warner and Khawaja to Woakes, but not Wood’s dismissal of Marnus Labuschagne.

Former Australia captain Mark Taylor commented that the new ball “sounded harder” off the bat, while white-ball all-rounder Glenn Maxwell warned on Twitter “beware the second newy [new ball]”.

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