CONTROVERSY: The umpires talk to England players.
CONTROVERSY: The umpires talk to England players. Julian Smith

Umpires' ball warning overshadows fightback

CRICKET: A ball-tampering controversy has marred Alastair Cook's record-breaking innings and Australia's fightback in the fourth Test at the MCG yesterday.

Channel 9 cameras showed England opening bowler James Anderson digging his nail into a cut-up section of leather in vision that some cricket fans believe to be a clear case of ball-tampering.

The on-field umpires warned England captain Joe Root about his team's treatment of the new ball, which also included numerous cases of players throwing the ball with excessive force into the pitch to try to rough up one side

of it.

Root, Stuart Broad and Anderson were all involved in a tense discussion with umpire Sundaram Ravi.

The incredible incident sent cricket commentators into meltdown, including former Australian Test stars Shane Warne and Michael Slater on Channel 9.

"I'm not sure you are allowed to use your fingernail there,” Warne said.

"This might get some people talking. That's interesting, you can't get your nail into the ball. That's a no no.”

Slater said the Channel 9 cameras had caught England doing something they were not allowed to do.

"That's the wrong way,” Slater said as Channel 9 broadcast images of Anderson digging his nail into the scuffed up Kookaburra ball.

"The reason they're doing it is to get the ball reversing sooner rather than later.

"I don't like to see nails going through the ball.

"If England win this one they don't want anything to hamper the great performance we've seen from them.”

Earlier Cook admitted he was on his last legs as a Test player before he peeled off a memorable, record-breaking 244 not out.

He had not passed 50 in 10 Test innings, but stonewalled the Australian bowlers on days two and three to record the highest Test score by an overseas player at the MCG.

He was left unbeaten when Anderson was out on the first ball of yesterday's play.

Cook became the first batsman to carry his bat in an Ashes Test since Geoffrey Boycott in 1979.

His knock set a record as the highest score by a batsman to carry his bat through an innings.

"It was a last-chance- saloon feeling really,” Cook told BT Sports after day three.

"You just have to keep believing. There is some inner confidence that I've done it before and I can do it again.”

England was dismissed for 491 - a lead of 164 runs.

In reply Australia lost Cameron Bancroft (27) and Usman Khawaja (11) before captain Steve Smith joined David Warner.

The pair put on a slow 38 in 22.4 overs before Melbourne's rain forced players off the field and ground staff to cover the wicket and surrounds.

When umpires called off play for the day Australia was 2-103, 61 runs behind with eight wickets in hand and one day to play.

Warner was 40 not out and Smith 25.

news.com.au



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