“It’s all you’ll be remembered for, that.”
So said English cricket great, Stuart Broad, to Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey in the heat of battle on the final day of the second Ashes Test at Lords this week, after Carey controversially stumped English batsman Jonny Bairstow.
Everyone knows the story by now (even the New York Times reported it!). At a crucial juncture of the match and with England’s last chance to push for an unlikely win, Bairstow absentmindedly left his crease after ducking a bouncer and Carey hurled the ball at the stumps catching Bairstow off guard. The umpires had no choice but to give him out.
The English cried foul, and even the perennially restrained MCC members made an unruly and undignified spectacle of their disapproval. British and Australian PMs waded in, highlighting how much these dramatic battles still matter to so many.
The Australians were well within their rights and certainly within the laws of the game and most (Australian) commentators have defended their actions, reminding the perturbed how unremarkable this moment was. YouTube replays of the English doing exactly the same thing have proliferated in the days since.
But I can’t help dreaming of a different way this could have played out. Imagine if Australian captain Pat Cummins had withdrawn the appeal and called the batsman back. Consider how it would have looked if, at the most high-pressure moment in such a high stakes game, the notion of how you win had trumped simply being able to win. Some of sport’s most enduring memories have that character.
It was a tough call but at such a defining moment, had the Australians made a different choice, they may not have won, but Cummins and his teammates would have ensured they would never have been forgotten for that.