It was here Stokes produced his second epic of the 2019 summer, drawing England level against Australia with 135 not out. It was an innings he almost replicated at Lord’s when he channelled the controversy to strike 155, with nine sixes and as many fours.
What was originally pegged as an amicable series between the two teams has now developed an edge. On Monday, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak stepped in, adding his voice to those admonishing the tourists for not abiding by the spirit of cricket.
While those not involved have made the loudest noises away from the field, McCullum stated the rift between English and Australian players would lead to a spikier series. He also reiterated Stokes’ view that England would have withdrawn the appeal if the shoe were on the other foot.
“I imagine it will affect it, I think it has to,” said McCullum of the spirt in which the remaining three Tests will be played . “In the end, they made a play, they’ve got to live with that. We would have made a different play, but that’s life.
“From our point of view, we believe that we can still come back in this series, and that’s where our focus has got to be. What I will say is it’s a galvanised unit up there [the England dressing-room] and we saw the fight from the skipper, Broady [Stuart Broad] and the boys at the end there as well, which shows how much this means to the side. We’ll lick our wounds and try and come back and rectify things.
“In the end, Australia won the Test match and fair play to them. It’s just a shame that when you’ve got millions of people all around the world, and you’ve got a full house at Lord’s, and you’ve everyone’s eyeballs on this series, that for the next couple of days probably the most talked about aspect is going to be that [the dismissal] and that’s disappointing.”
McCullum acknowledged his own history with acts not too dissimilar to Carey’s. Back in 2006, during the second innings of the first Test against Sri Lanka, the former New Zealand wicketkeeper ran out Muttiah Muaralitharan after he had left his crease to celebrate team-mate Kumar Sangakkara’s hundred after completing a single. McCullum addressed the incident in a 2016 Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s, stating he would not have affected the dismissal if he could “turn back time”. He anticipates it will have an effect on Australia.
“Obviously I’ve made an apology to Murali in my Cowdrey Lecture,” McCullum said. “When I was a younger man, I didn’t quite understand the significance of what the game and the spirit of the game means to the game. It’s what the defining point of the game is compared to others, and it’s only with the benefit of time and experience that we’re able to learn that and cherish it. In time, we’ll see, but I get the feeling that it might have an effect on them.”
Not since Don Bradman’s Australia in the 1936-37 series has a team overturned a 2-0 deficit and go on to win the Ashes. England can take heart from how close the two matches have been, particularly the opener at Edgbaston, which Australia won by two wickets. Should the hosts turn the tables, it would undoubtedly be their most memorable win of this rivalry.
Naturally, McCullum has faith in his charges to do the remarkable, provided they learn from mistakes in pressure situations. The mood among the players remains positive, along with a palpable optimism they can do something spectacular.
“3-2 has a nice ring to it,” McCullum said. “We’ve got to polish up a couple of the areas where the game has sat on a knife-edge and we haven’t been able to grab it. We knew coming into this series it was going to be tight and there was going to be those moments. If we can do that, there’s no reason why we can’t bounce back. Morale is high and we’ve played some good cricket amongst things as well, and we look forward to the opportunity.
“We always say that if we are winning and things are going great, you don’t want to get too high, and if we are losing you don’t want to get too low either. We are on a path to where we want to get to and want to stick to that. Because a) it’s fun, and b) I think it gives us our best chance. Albeit we are 2-0 down at the moment, I think it gives us our best chance of winning the series.”
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo