England’s coach was livid after pictures of Jimmy Anderson ‘cleaning’ the quarter-seam of the ball with his fingernail in front of the umpires were dressed up as underhand by both FoxSports website and Channel 9.
Even Cricket Australia’s official Twitter feed felt moved to post: “There might be a little bit of a ‘please explain’ there for Jimmy Anderson”.
Fox stated England had been “accused of ball tampering” while the host broadcaster revved up former Australia Test stars including Shane Warne, who suggested Anderson’s use of the nail would “get people talking”, and Mike Hussey, who said he could have “explaining to do”.
Cleaning the ball in front of umpires is permitted and, after having the inflammatory articles brought to his attention during the first rain break on a day when only half the scheduled play was possible, Bayliss had sought immediate clarification from officials.
“As soon as I saw the headlines I raced in to see the umpires and they said it was ‘a beat up’ [made-up story]. That was their words and Kumar [Dharmasena] said, ‘There is nothing to worry about’,” said Bayliss.
“We have had a good couple of days and there has been a lot of positive pressure from their [Australia’s] point of view so there’s been a bit of ‘Pommie-bashing’ there.
“We are used to that though. We knew when we came here it was going to be 24 million versus 11 but we just have to laugh it off as part of the game.”
A spokesman for the ICC match referee confirmed both captains Steve Smith and Joe Root were spoken to by the on-field umpires (Australia on day three and England on day four) for deliberately trying to scuff up one side of the ball when throwing back in to the keeper on the bounce.
Yet on a pitch offering nothing for the bowling side and little even for the batsmen it is was no wonder both sides have tried to harness reverse swing.
It was to little avail on day four with England’s innings coming to an end on the first ball of the day, making Alastair Cook the eighth Englishman and the first since Michael Atherton in 1997 to carry his bat.
That was followed by England taking just two wickets in 44.5 overs before the rain arrived to leave Australia still trailing by 61.
Cameron Bancroft was the first to fall, playing on from Chris Woakes, and Usman Khawaja edged Anderson behind before Smith and David Warner dropped anchor and waited for rain which knocked out a session and a half.
It was during the first delay that footage on both Nine and FoxSports purporting to show Anderson cleaning out the seam of the ball first surfaced. What their footage did not include was the fact he was doing it in front of the umpires.
“You’re allowed to clean the ball, and Kumar [Dharmasena] has said to our guys that you’ve got no problem cleaning the ball, but he’d like them to do it in front of the umpires so they can see there’s nothing untoward going on,” said Bayliss.
“Kumar said there is a bit of dirt and mud out there and it does get in the ball and into some of the seams, and you are allowed to clean it off.
“But watching the footage, if he [Anderson] was scratching it, he was scratching the wrong side for it to go and reverse. Usually the boys try to get one side rough and one side to stay smooth, and keep the ball dry.
“With regard to scuffing the ball up the umpires spoke to both captains about throwing into the rough areas. But every team in the world does that.
“The umpires don’t want you to go overboard and both teams have taken that on board. But there is not a lot you can do on a wicket such as this. You hope you can get the ball to reverse, play a few tricks, and sometimes it will go through a bit of a period when it does that.”
Asked what his view of former Test stars now commenting with indignation about current players altering the ball, Bayliss added: “They were players once too. That’s all I’ll say.”