"That's right… That's Ashes #4 … #BOOOOOM," Kevin Pietersen tweeted after bad light stopped play and ended another dramatic Test match. While #4 was meant to denote Pietersen's fourth Ashes series win (2005, 2009, 2010-11, 2013), it could have easily been about a momentous 4-0 series scoreline, which England almost achieved. Former Ashes winning captain Michael Vaughan tweeted on Sunday evening: "What a F***ing joke … #Ashes. I hope the ICC are realising they are ruining the game!!!!!!"
There was bad blood leading into the final day of the series. On the eve of the Test, Australia coach Darren Lehmann accused Stuart Broad of "blatant cheating". On Friday, Michael Clarke and Pietersen, with Shane Watson the instigator, raged over each other's popularity, or a lack of it, in their respective dressing rooms. And then, the Aussies took potshots at the England batsmen for their cautious approach.
When it was done and dusted, Vaughan, like many at the Oval, went too far. With England unable to create history despite needing just 21 from four overs, the series ended on a bitter note.
According to reports, four hours later, the home team celebrated their Ashes success by urinating on the pitch. For many, the pitch is holy turf. And this act by the England team would discern them from great cricket teams of the past, who treated success with a touch of humility. The cockiness, some would say, could be done without, not to speak of such shocking behaviour.
Australian journalist Malcolm Conn wrote in the Herald Sun: "While the centre of the ground was quite dark, lights were on in the grandstands with dozens of people still cleaning up after a late finish which saw the game go beyond 7.30pm. A number of players including Broad, Pietersen and Jimmy Anderson took turns urinating on the pitch to the cheers of their team mates. This could be clearly seen from the outside overflow areas of the press box."
England's players got carried away while marking their territory, in a manner of speaking. Dave Richardson, International Cricket Council CEO and former South Africa Test wicketkeeper, felt the sport's governing body was not in a position to punish Broad or Pietersen. "We believe it's a matter for the ECB to look into. From a personal point-of-view, as a former cricketer, I don't appreciate such an act, considering that the pitch is the Holy Grail to some cricketers," he told the Hindustan Times.
"But in my official capacity, I would rather leave the matter to the ECB to resolve. If they feel it was a breach of discipline by some English players, they must get the due penalty for the same," he added.
But isn't it the ICC's role to protect the heavily advertised "Spirit of Cricket"? "Yes, it is. But in this situation, the matter must be addressed by the ECB."
Alec Stewart, the former England captain who played a whole lot of cricket at the Oval, his home ground, hoped the incident would be seen in a lighter vein. "I haven't bothered to get into the details of it because England have just won the Ashes and emotions are running high. But whatever happened at the Oval, it just did, and we must just move past it. I just hope everyone takes it in good spirits, because it wasn't exactly a sign of disrespect towards anyone," he told HT.