England were left frustrated by a lack of assistance from the on-field umpires and a breakdown in technology following a dismissal off a no-ball from Ben Stokes that helped Australia tighten their grip on the first Ashes Test.
Stokes had bowled David Warner for 17 with just his fourth ball of the second morning only to see the wicket chalked off when replays showed he had overstepped. With the opener’s pugnacious 94 laying the platform for Travis Head’s remarkable century in the evening session, its cost was significant.
Bowler error was clearly at play here, although it also transpired that Stokes had similarly overstepped for the three preceding deliveries. “Pathetic officiating,” said Ricky Ponting on commentary, reflecting the fact England’s returning vice-captain was ultimately unaware of the repeat issue until it saw a wicket scrubbed off.
Front foot no-balls have been the domain of the third umpire since February last year, when, after a successful trial by the ICC, a four-camera set-up was introduced for Test cricket to take the burden away from the on-field officials. In the main the new set-up has worked well.
But it wasn’t until the Warner “wicket” occurred, however, that it was learned the system is in fact missing from this first Test after breaking down upon arrival from the UK. The job of checking the front line has returned to the middle until the system is fixed, with Rod Tucker the umpire who missed these initial no-balls.
Host broadcasters Channel 7 later showed that in fact some 14 deliveries from Stokes’ initial five-over spell were similarly illegal due to over-stepping, a problem not just for the bowler but costly for the batting side also.
“What a fast bowler needs is some sort of understanding of where their feet are because obviously you can’t see your own feet,” said Jon Lewis, England’s bowling coach, after a day of toil for his charge. “It would have been nice for the first no ball to be called for he could have made an adjustment. So from then on he would have been behind the line because he knows where his feet are.”
That Stokes struggled with the issue all day – albeit with only two further no-balls called on the field – rather undermined this assertion from Lewis. Even if the all-rounder had adjusted immediately after being called, there is no way of knowing what would have followed.
Either way, the rustiness from Stokes underlined his limited preparation after his four-month break from all cricket and just one day of warm-up action in the middle on tour. Both sets of bowlers are also unable to warm-up on side pitches before each day’s play in the Test, something else which might have assisted.
Stokes and England were also fearing a possible knee injury overnight after he pulled up while running to prevent a boundary during the afternoon session. Stokes did bowl after this incident, sending down four overs in the evening, but was visibly down on pace and grimaced throughout.
A more positive update was provided on Ollie Robinson, at least, with the seamer confirming after stumps his departure from the middle during an evening session lit up by Head’s unbeaten 112 was simply a case of running repairs.