The Trescothick revelation August 25, 2008

'It's illegal, isn't it?'


Marcus Trescothick may be lucky after all as the laws of the game are not precise about ball tampering © Getty Images

Marcus Trescothick's admission that he used mint-induced saliva to keep the shine on the ball during the 2005 Ashes might give his autobiography Coming Back To Me the perfect launch, but it has left him and his Ashes-winning team open to the charge of ball tampering.

Trescothick, who was England's official ball-shiner during the series admitted that he had used Murray Mints to produce a saliva which, "when applied to the ball for cleaning purposes, enabled it to keep its shine for longer and therefore its swing'.'

Damien Fleming, the former Australia swing bowler, is of the opinion that Trescothick's strategy was against the laws of the game. "It is some form of ball tampering, it is not about natural deterioration," he said. "It is illegal, isn't it?"

Fleming told Cricinfo that though he was happy to be a bit more naive and thought it was good bowling, he always felt something was amiss to see the ball reverse-swing in England. "I loved the wrist release of Flintoff, Jones and Harmison, but always felt something was going on as the ball was reversing by the 40th over, especially on a grassy pitches," Fleming said. "You're used to seeing the ball reverse early on the much rougher tracks in the subcontinent where the hard surface makes the ball abrasive easily."

Angus Fraser, the former England medium pace bowler who covered the series for the Independent, wouldn't go as far as to deem the practice illegal, but he believed the disclosure has exposed the hypocrisy that has existed over ball tampering.

According to Fraser, who has been part of the ICC's technical committee, the tactics Trescothick employed to shine the ball has been always popular on the county circuit. "I don't know if it is illegal," he said.

"To me it is a total hypocrisy on what is deemed to be ball tampering. When Pakistan were accused of ball tampering it was built into something that was abhorrent. Ball tampering is ball tampering whether you scratch the ball or whether you deliberately put in sugary saliva on it to aid its shine so I don't see any difference between one and the either.

"There are huge inconsistencies for one side to complain about the other scratching the ball when they are deliberately sucking sugary sweets to shine the ball," he said.

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What Trescothick wrote
  • "I was firmly established as the man in charge of looking after the ball when we were fielding. It was my job to keep the shine on the new ball for as long as possible with a bit of spit and a lot of polish.
  • And through trial and error I finally settled on the best type of spit for the task at hand. It had been common knowledge in county cricket for some time that certain sweets produced saliva which when applied to the ball for cleaning purposes enabled it to keep its shine for longer and therefore its swing.
  • As with most of the great scientific discoveries, this one happened quite by accident.
  • While at Warwickshire, Dermot Reeve noticed that his bowlers somehow had the ability to keep the ball swinging far longer than any team they faced.
  • The problem was no one knew why.
  • He realised the player in charge of polishing and keeping the ball clean was his top-order batsman Asif Din and what he did to keep his concentration levels up was chewing extra strong mints.
  • It took a while for word to get around the circuit but once it did the sales of sweets near the county grounds of England went through the roof.
  • I tried Asif¹s confection of choice but couldn¹t get on with them. Too dry. So I had a go at Murray Mints and found they worked a treat.
  • Trouble was, even allowing for trying to keep one going as long as possible. I still used to get through about 15 a day and the taste soon palled.
  • Once Phil Neale came on board as our operations manager it was one of his jobs to make sure the dressing-room was fully stocked at all times.
  • We even tried taking them on tour a couple of times until we realised that they didn¹t work as well on the Kookaburra balls used overseas as the Dukes we used back home."
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Peter Willey, former England batsman and ex-ICC umpire, who still officiates at county games, has seen bowlers using all sorts of methods on the ball. He offers an interesting analogy to Trescothick's mint. "People use suntan oil, lip salve, scruff the ball with finger and thumbs until they get caught. If you apply suntan oil on you forehead or face or arms and rub the sweat on your body (which is mixed with suntan oil) and then rub the ball what is the difference?"

While Willey believed Trescothick didn't violate the spirit of the game, Fraser wanted to look at the issue from another angle. "It is impossible to police," he said. "If a batsman edges the ball and stands his ground and no-one says a word, that is part of the game. And if a bowler adds sugary saliva on the ball, the spirit of the game is called into question. There should be some leniency about what the bowler can do to the ball. You don't want a cricket ball tested at the end of day for sugar, for sun cream, for lip gel, for finger nails and whatever else you want to try and put on it."

Michael Kasprowicz, who was a central performer in the second Test of that Ashes series, as the batsman who was dismissed caught-behind to Flintoff at Edgbaston, a decision which sealed Australia's heartbreaking two-run loss, said he was not bitter about Trescothick's admission.

"I actually wish Marcus put a bit more mint on the ball so it deflected further off my glove," he said. "We're talking about sugar coating using mints. There are a lot more major issues in the game at the moment to worry about."

Troy Cooley was the England bowling coach at the time and his reverse-swing techniques helped clinch the series. He denied having any clue about the practice.

"I had no knowledge of it and I certainly wouldn't recommend anything like that," Cooley told the Daily Telegraph. "I don't know if it would even work. I would never cheat in the game. Bowlers have used sweat and polish over the years to shine the ball. There is an old wives' tale from past years that sunscreen and Brylcreem helps the ball swing, but I don't know about that."

Will players be banned from applying suntan, or lip salve, and leave them at risk from the damaging rays of the sun? © AFP

According to Law 42.3(a)(i) any fielder "may polish the ball provided that no artificial substance is used ..." In Trescothick's case, the artificial substance was the mint which he didn't use directly but the mint induced the saliva which he used as an aid to shine the ball.

But does sucking a mint and applying the saliva amount to the application of an artificial substance? The ICC's verdict was "using artificial measures to shine the ball is illegal", but they would not "outlaw sucking sweets''. As of now, the ICC has said it will not interfere. "It depends on the evidence and circumstances, so if something is brought to our attention it would be dealt with," an ICC spokesperson told BBC.

The ECB have decided not to comment on the issue for the moment. "We have only seen reports of this admission," an ECB spokesperson said.

Allan Border, the former Australia captain, said Trescothick's announcement was not "earth-shattering news". "Over the last century or so bowlers have been fiddling around with balls using all sorts of stuff," Border said in the Australian.

Merv Hughes, an Australia selector, said the incident happened a long time ago so "it's no good worrying about it". "If he's come out and said that he's used it, yes, it's unethical," Hughes told the Age. "Yes, he got away with it, good luck to him. You can't change the result of the Test series."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tim on August 27, 2008, 13:41 GMT

    I think people get off the topic very easily. I don't think the race card has any place in this discussion. I agree however, that the issue is between England, Australia and the ICC. But I also agree that it was 3 years ago and to turn around a series or even a match after that time, and based on the evidence given, would be a little crazy. However I don't agree with the comparisons to batsmen not walking when they know they've knicked. I tend to think that things go in round abouts in cricket and maybe the next innings or the next match or even the next series they may be given out when they're not one way or another. But I'm not sure that you could not say the same about this incident. And I would put this issue in the same category as sledging; too hard to properly police given the immensity of the tests that would have to be utilized, and the laws seem to be so fuzzy about exactly what ball tampering is. Let's hope for Marcus' sake that he isn't planning a 2009 Ashes return...

  • Sachal on August 27, 2008, 8:13 GMT

    I dont agree with Mr. Fireballz comment, and with all due respect to him , ball tampering has no statue of limitations. If an asian admitted to ball tampering we would have never heard the end of it but he talks of racial bias being a figment of our imagination. Inspite of Murli being cleared by the ICC and the lab results many australians believe he is still chucking, but the same Australians dont think Brett Lee chucks because he has been cleared by the Lab results. The Aussie has a great cricketing history, and a great cricket team , but that does not exonerate their on field behavior or off field for that matter.

  • TOM on August 27, 2008, 3:53 GMT

    To AsherCA you should know that 5 out of 10 full voting members of the ICC (International Cheaters Corporation) are the voting bloc of India, Pakistan,Sri Lanka,Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Whilst Zimbabwe is not Asian, it votes only as India votes (don't get me started on them), so explain how the ICC can make biased, racist decisions that favour the 'white' member countries, although the West Indies aren't white I suppose. Just recently, the ICC reversed the result of a Test match for the first time in history, in favour of Pakistan. In addition, ICC management is drawn from all full member test playing countries. The nub of the issue is the 'victim' mentality shown by your comments. Remember that Australia was the loser in the test series in question, and only that country should have the right of appeal, not you.

  • Adrian on August 27, 2008, 3:38 GMT

    To all the pakistanis whinging about racial bias (as per usual) the reason that everyone is dismissing this articale as unimportant is because the incident occured 3 years ago. The Ashes has been regained from an Australian point of view since then and 2005 was a great series to watch for both sides. It was illegal and if it had become apparent at the time I'm 100% sure that much more would have been made of it. As for the Darrell Hair vs Pakistan incident - LET IT GO! The ICC even changed the result of the game after years of complaining and moaning so why everybody still brings that up 2 years on when it has nothing to do with the subject of this article is beyond me. And what has any of this got to do with Murali and Michael Phelps?!?!? Trescothick did do something illegal and that is wrong but 3 years later nobody cares, which is precisely why he revealed it now and not in october 2005.

  • TOM on August 27, 2008, 3:13 GMT

    Merv Hughes is wrong; you can change the result of a test(England vd Pakistan), but you need the support of the BCCI to achieve it.

  • Steve on August 27, 2008, 2:37 GMT

    laggan, your comment "They cheat and get away with it because authorities treat white teams with kid gloves" is surely a joke. Right?

    If this revelation was about a series that England played and (just) won against India or Pakistan you lot would be threatening a war and demanding that the result of the series was reversed!

    And, knowing the pathetically limp-wristed ICC, you'd probably get your wish!!

    Why do some people always have to go the race angle, and what has this got to do with India or Pakistan anyway?

    I thought this was an Ashes series between England and Australia...

  • Trace on August 26, 2008, 23:44 GMT

    Come on people lets get real about this. When I was a junior cricketer, and that was a very long time ago, I was a quick bowler, fortuante to represent his country at a lower level. And in my time I've worked with many a professional of the old school where ball tampering has been going on for as long as a cricket ball existed. It's part of the game and I was taught how to do it by some very respected West Indian,Pakistani, Australian, English and South African players whom I played with and against. The really funny side about it was that it made bugger all difference to the physics (and that's what my first degree was in) as if you couldn't make the ball pitch in the right place with the right seam angle at the right pace then the batsman would win every time. And that's why I love the game with a passion that still burns bright so if Marcus wants to cleanse his soul that's okay. In the grand scheme que sera sera, so get a life,live with it and stop moaning.

  • Rohan on August 26, 2008, 23:43 GMT

    Well its no wonder why Marcus Trescothick's marriage was in limbo - it probably had to with the 15 mint a day chewing !!!!

  • StJohn on August 26, 2008, 18:47 GMT

    Interesting article & subject. As the law is framed, it doesn't seem illegal to me: saliva is not an artificial substance and that the chemical composition of saliva may alter if you suck mints doesn't transform saliva into an artificial substance. As the article points out, even if it were illegal, it would be impossible to police - you'd basically have to stop players using sweat or spit to polish the ball (or ban sun cream, hair gel, lip balm, chewing gum & sweets). Is it against the spirit of the game though? Somehow it seems a bit naughty or cheeky to me, but it is ethically less offensive than the batsman who knows he hit the ball but refuses to walk & it is different to using an implement or an articifial substance directly on the ball. Expect sales of Murray Mints to increase further! Especially amongst a certain few Australians who will be doing a lot of bowling with the Duke ball next summer. I'll try to make more use of them myself next year - thanks for the tip!

  • Manoj on August 26, 2008, 18:15 GMT

    If a person admits to a murder 50 years after he commits it, he still will be made responsible and can be trialed for the murder. Like wise Trescothick should be tried. Not the English team... as they only made Trescothick be responsible for shinning the ball and no body asked him to do "the murray mint formula" Trescothick should also be banned from playing any form of cricket unless he can prove his innocence. This way at least he can repent for his selfish decision to ditch the team without a warning in the very last minutes-TWICE and also for a few publicity bucks, let his country and the brave team mates who battled the ASHES victory with all their heart, down... SHAME ON YOU Trescothick!

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