First-ever video review undertaken November 21, 2005

Ball-tampering probe against Michael Lewis

Cricinfo staff



Michael Lewis's treatment of the cricket ball has raised several eyebrows © Getty Images
Michael Lewis, the fast bowler from Victoria, has been investigated for alleged ball-tampering during the Pura Cup game against Queensland at the Gabba. In what was the first such video review in the history of Australian domestic cricket, Lewis was found to have applied his thumbnail to the ball but the umpires, stating that he hadn't done anything illegal, let him off with a warning.

Lewis was caught in suspicious circumstances on camera on two occasions: first, applying his thumbnail to the ball; and second, in the way he was holding the ball, with both hands over the top. Norm McNamara and Dave Orchard, the on-field umpires, reviewed the footage with Greg Shipperd, Victoria's coach, and Cameron White, the captain, at the end of the day's play and decided Lewis had no case to answer, saying the matter had been "dealt with" on the field.

However, when Lewis and White were asked to comment by the media, they denied being addressed by the umpires, claiming that their on-field discussions with McNamara and Orchard were in regard to a different incident. Lewis had earlier hurled the ball at Clinton Perren, the Queensland batsman whose second-innings 90 had set his team up for a win, and this forced the umpires to intervene. "We wouldn't be so stupid as to do something illegal when we know the cameras are on us," Lewis has been reported as saying by the The Age, a Melbourne-based daily.

During the second day's play, Lewis had requested McNamara and Orchard to clean the ball after it had been soiled by sand and dirt when retrieved from the boundary. Both umpires consented, and Lewis apparently cleaned the ball with his thumb. Later in the day's proceedings, Lewis was seen to have applied his thumbnail to the ball. After being shown the footage, Graham Dixon, Queensland's cricket chief executive, brought the matter to the attention of the umpires, adding that he was suspicious over the manner in which Lewis held the ball during delivery. The umpires watched the video and decided Lewis had done nothing illegal, and a warning was issued to Lewis that such instances were not permissable without the umpires' consent.

Despite Victoria's claims of being scrutinised because of the intense rivalry between both teams, this incident has been taken seriously owing to another case earlier this year. An investigation into a ball-tampering episode involving an assistant coach during a Victorian second XI game was dismissed due to lack of evidence, but the vigilance with which such cases have been approached has put players under pressure. Further, Victoria's bowlers have a reputation of generating reverse-swing, and Lewis - who maintained that he along with Rodney Hogg, the former Test bowler, had devised a legal method - has been recognised as one of the chief exponents of the craft.

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