LONDON — They might be besties on the world stage — but don’t get England and Australia started on the cricket.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Britain’s Rishi Sunak are locked in a war of words as accusations of Aussie cheating in the Ashes tournament fly. It’s a far cry from their chumminess over the AUKUS nuclear alliance and much-vaunted new trade ties.
The row centers on England and Australia’s Ashes clash at Lords cricket ground Sunday.
In highly contentious scenes that riled up English fans, England’s Jonny Bairstow was dismissed after Australia’s Alex Carey “stumped” him out while Bairstow believed the ball wasn’t in play.
Under the rules of cricket, the ball is live if either side considers it to be so — meaning Bairstow’s pleas to the umpire fell on deaf ears.
The dismissal proved crucial for Australia, who ran out winners.
England’s captain Ben Stokes made clear after the match that he would not have wanted to win the game in that way.
“The PM agrees with Ben Stokes,” said Sunak’s official spokesperson Monday, as the British prime minister waded into the row. Asked directly if Sunak reckons the Aussies “contravened the spirit of cricket,” the spokesperson answered in the affirmative.
Albanese wasn’t taking that one lying down, and offered his own take Tuesday.
The Australian PM said that while he understood Sunak’s disappointment, he “must not have had the same lessons I got in primary school at St Joseph’s Camperdown: ‘Stay in your crease.’” Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, he added: “Hope you’re well, PM.”
Rubbing salt into the wounds Tuesday, Albanese tweeted: “Same old Aussies — always winning!”
England and Australia are set to clash again in the third test of the Ashes on Thursday — so expect plenty more of this.
U.K. Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer told the BBC on Tuesday that England should aim to give their rivals a “good pasting.”
On the bright side for Aussie-English relations, Sunak’s spokesperson said the British PM is unlikely to raise the issue directly with Albanese.
“Whilst there’s always going to be a friendly rivalry, I think they will be focused on more core issues,” they said. Good luck with that.