Ashes 2023: England lost to Australia on the pitch- but events at Lord’s off the pitch left a bitter taste
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When Mitchell Starc uprooted Josh Tongue’s off stump at Lord’s, he brought to an end one of the most bizarre, distasteful Test matches of recent years. Australia have taken a 2-0 lead in the LV= Insurance Men’s Ashes thanks to the 43 run victory, but off field incidents within the Lord’s members pavilion has threatened to overshadow what was another thrilling match.
The match was one in which rules of the game and spirit of the game became two phrases rolled out across media coverage and social media. On day four, it was Mitchell Starc’s catch-but-not-catch and on day five it was the runout of Jonny Bairstow by Alex Carey. As much as England fans and pundits want it to be, the run out was not illegal.
You can argue it was ‘against the spirit of the game’ but one only needs to think back to Stuart Broad refusing to walk after a very clear edge during the Ashes back in 2015 to realise that England are far from perfect when it comes to this department. The English game in general is far from perfect- the ICEC report into racism, sexism and elitism in the sport is proof enough for that.
The runout from Carey led to MCC members heckling the Australian’s as they headed up for lunch on day five. It resulted in Australian opener Usman Khawaja having to be moved on in reaction to comments from a certain member. The boos and jeers from the members, who pay a great deal for the privilege of being there, was not a good look for the MCC.
After the incident, the MCC issued a statement saying that three of it’s members had been suspended.
They said: "We maintain that the behaviour of a small number of members was completely unacceptable and whilst there was no suggestion by [Australia captain] Pat Cummins in the post-match press conference that there was any physical altercation, it remains wholly unacceptable to behave in such a way, which goes against the values of the club. MCC condemns the behaviour witnessed and once again we reiterate our apology to Cricket Australia."
Frustrations spilled out into the rest of the crowd at Lord’s, with boos being audible from around the ground even after the last wicket fell. This was enough for former England captain Andrew Strauss to say a line which hasn’t gone down well with people.
Strauss appeared to blame the booing on “people who don’t normally come to Lord’s” on a day on which tickets were reduced to £25. It felt as though the elitism in cricket section of the ICEC report would need re-addressing, and these comments have perhaps rightly been outlined as tasteless by many online.
We should have been all talking about the cricket, about another wonderfully stubborn century from Steve Smith being followed by a truly enigmatic 155 from Ben Stokes. However, a shadow was at least partially cast on these by the uncomfortable actions and comments from people around Lord’s.
The match was an absolute thriller, and the 2-0 scoreline is probably what Australia deserved after two clinical performances, and we shouldn't even be talking about such off-field incidents. However, we are, and the harsh truth is that the match has only strengthened the need to look at the ICEC report findings even closer.