Stokes, Johnson avoid punishment
On-field flashpoints have been a feature of the first two Tests between Australia and England but Ben Stokes and Mitchell Johnson have avoided punishment for their coming together on the fourth day in Adelaide. Shoulders collided when Stokes ran past Johnson while batting, and the pair were later separated by umpire Kumar Dharmasena, but they were found not guilty of breaching the ICC's code of conduct.
The match referee, Jeff Crowe, who had spoken to both teams before the second Test about standards of behaviour, conducted separate hearings with Stokes and Johnson after the match. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges, relating to "inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players" in the ICC's code of conduct, and Crowe was satisfied that the mid-pitch encounter was not intentional, although they were warned against a repeat.
Stokes, the Durham allrounder, put in a combative showing on his Test debut. Having been denied his maiden Test wicket in Australia's first innings, when he had Brad Haddin caught behind off a no ball, Stokes struck up a lively discussion with Haddin at the end of the over in which the batsman was recalled. He was also given a send-off by Ryan Harris after a stubborn, 90-ball stay in England's second knock.
"I am satisfied in respect of both players that their physical contact was not deliberate," Crowe said. "Both players, however, could have done more to avoid each other and they have been so counselled. We do not condone physical contact, but recognise that on occasions such contact could be accidental."
The charges were brought by on-field umpires, Kumar Dharmasena and Marais Erasmus, third umpire Tony Hill and fourth umpire Simon Fry, with suspension for a Test the maximum possible sanction. Instead, Stokes and Johnson could face each other again in a few days time, in the third Test starting in Perth on Friday, with England 2-0 down and chasing a way back into the series.
Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, was fined 20% of his match fee after the first Test in Brisbane, after his suggestion that James Anderson should prepare to have his arm broken whilst facing Mitchell Johnson was picked up by the stump microphone. Australia's aggressive approach has been a clear element of their strategy to regain the Ashes - Johnson's pace no small part of that - and tempers flared again as England battled in vain to avoid another heavy defeat in Adelaide, with Johnson, Stokes, Stuart Broad, Matt Prior and Clarke involved in various exchanges on Sunday.