Ashes investigation launched over controversial incident that changed fifth Test

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Chris Woakes found movement with the changed ball to help bowl England to victory (Image: Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Chris Woakes found movement with the changed ball to help bowl England to victory (Image: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The ball which helped England win the final Ashes Test against Australia at the Oval is being investigated by the manufacturer amid suggestions it could have been five years old.

England drew the Ashes 2-2 thanks to a 49-run victory in the last Test, which saw the hosts take 10 wickets on the final day. Having reached 135-0 on day four, Australia collapsed the following day as Chris Woakes took 4-50 and Stuart Broad produced a memorable finale to his career by bagging the last two wickets.

Australia believe that a ball change was behind the dramatic swing in fortunes. It came late on the fourth day after Usman Khawaja was struck on the helmet by a bouncer from Mark Wood. The impact prompted action from umpires Joel Wilson and Kumar Dharmasena, who handed England a different ball.

With the help of increased swing and movement off the pitch, Woakes dismissed David Warner and Khawaja in quick succession on day five. Former Aussie captain Ricky Ponting was furious with the ball-change and demanded an investigation, with Australian media suggesting the ball could have been five years old.

While an investigation has not been forthcoming from the International Cricket Council, Dilip Jajodia, the owner of British Cricket Balls Ltd, which manufactures the Dukes ball, has confirmed he will look into it.

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“I can't imagine they would risk putting a ball in there with a different date on it,” Jajodia told News Corp. “Frankly the match referee should be on top of it.

“We do bang that number in quite hard, so even if the gold comes off the ball is imprinted. It wouldn't be easy to get rid of it. I'm not saying it's impossible (it was a 2018 or 2019 ball), but it's not likely. I'm going to investigate myself, because it affects me … my name is at stake.”

Ashes investigation launched over controversial incident that changed fifth TestThe ball England were given was visibly different (Sky Sports)

Khawaja has been vocal in his opinion of the incident, saying he hopes the ICC can "learn" from it. He told cricket.com.au : "I walked straight up to Kumar and said straight away, 'That ball is nothing like the one we've been playing with'.

"I could see writing on it. It felt harder than any ball I've faced throughout this whole Ashes series to be honest. I've opened the batting against the new ball every single time and it just hit my bat so hard. I know Woody was bowling, but I've faced Woody before.

"I said, 'You've gone from an old, reverse (swinging) ball to a brand-new ball'. It looked like it was about eight overs old, swinging conventionally and hitting the bat hard. So I actually asked Joel again today, 'How are we using this ball right now? It's so new.'

"And he said, 'Look, there was nothing else in the box'. Personally I think if there's nothing else in the box that can match the ball you have, you can't really change it. It's a bit frustrating as a batting unit because we worked our backsides off for 36 overs and then they changed the ball.”

Felix Keith

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