Jimmy Anderson, the England fast bowler, was found not guilty today on a serious charge of misconduct. His Indian opponent and supposed adversary, Ravindra Jadeja, was also cleared of a lesser breach of the ICC code of conduct.
The hearings into the mutual accusations in Southampton lasted six hours and were conducted by video conference. The verdicts were delivered within minutes by the ICC judicial commissioner, judge Gordon Lewis, who was in Melbourne. Anderson faced a four-match ban under level three of the code after the case was brought and persistently pressed by India.
Jadeja, who was charged by England with a level two offence and later found guilty under level one, had the verdict overturned. It means that his match fee, half of which he was fined, will be restored.
The effect on the rest of the series in which two Tests are still to play remains to be seen. But while England will feel vindicated, India will be distinctly miffed. There is no love lost whatever between them and the acrimony could run and run.
The time between the hearings ending and the decision being delivered was breathtakingly quick. Lewis will give a fuller version of his findings to the ICC soon, but the ICC’s release merely reported the fact.
Players from both sides gave evidence at the hearings, including Matt Prior and Ben Stokes from England, and were cross-examined by lawyers. Anderson and the England and Wales Cricket Board were represented by Nick de Marco, and Adam Lewis QC represented Jadeja.
The managers of both teams, Phil Neal and Sunil Dev, the ECB’s cricket managing director, Paul Downton, and Sundar Raman and MV Sridhar from the Board of Control for Cricket in India also attended. Three senior ICC delegates flew from Dubai for the case, the cricket general manager, Geoff Allardice, the ethics and regulatory lawyer, Sally Clark and the communications head Sami-ul-Hasan.
Level three hearings are extremely rare. The last was brought against Harbhajan Singh, the India spinner, after a Test match in Australia in 2008. He was convicted but later cleared.
Anderson and Jadeja were involved in a spat as they left the field for lunch on the second day of the first Test of the Investec series at Trent Bridge. They continued their altercation in the narrow corridor of the pavilion and it is from that the charges against Anderson originally stemmed.
After the match, it was announced that India had brought a level three charge against Anderson. This is a serious offence under the ICC code and includes the threat of assault on another player, though India brought their case under the catch-all clause which says: “Where the facts of the alleged incident are not adequately or clearly covered by any of the above offences, conduct that either: (a) is contrary to the spirit of the game; or (b) brings the game into disrepute.”
England’s surprise was genuine and they immediately described it as a minor incident, an assessment which has now garnered judicial support. But they decided to reciprocate by bringing charges against Jadeja under level two of the code. While doing so they “pledged their total support” for Anderson.
Jadeja was originally dealt with by the match referee David Boon, who decided there was insufficient evidence to convict on a level two charge but reduced it to level one. India were incandescent and, although the code specifically precludes appeals under level one, they hired lawyers to persuade the ICC to allow another hearing.
The charge has been hanging over Anderson for three weeks. It was generally conceded that he had pushed Jadeja at some point during the exchange but that he done so because Jadeja was lunging at him in an intimidating fashion.
India have maintained consistently that they had no intention of backing down and both on and off the record insisted they had the evidence to secure a conviction. But there was constant misleading information, including it would seem the apparent revelation late on Thursday that video evidence had come to light which would prove Anderson’s guilt.
MS Dhoni, the tourists’ captain, was particularly strident in pursuing the case and gave a press briefing the day before the start of the third Test at Southampton at which he did not mention Anderson by name but made his feelings perfectly clear.
Before the hearing, Peter Moores, the England coach, said: “Jimmy plays it hard on the pitch and I think that is what international sport is. It is what people come to watch – seeing people, hopefully, putting everything on the line when they play.
“Jimmy plays that style of cricket. He is a fantastically skilful player. What goes on on the pitch is tough, hard cricket and that is how Jimmy plays. I think people enjoy watching that and enjoy playing against it as well because it is what it says – a Test.”
Moores declined the invitation to say that Anderson went too far at times, which was the nub of India’s case. “I’m not going to start judging Jimmy Anderson on everything he does and doesn’t do,” he said. “What I will say is that at the moment, we celebrate the fact that he is bowling at his best.” The ICC’s judicial commissioner seems to agree.