Adelaide, Australia: Captain Joe Root says England will use Australia’s glee over Jonny Bairstow’s headbutt controversy as motivation for Saturday’s crucial second Ashes Test in Adelaide.
The tourists were not amused over pictures of Steve Smith laughing while team-mate Cameron Bancroft recounted the England wicketkeeper’s “weird” headbutt greeting, following Australia’s 10-wicket first Test victory in Brisbane.
While Root said it was important to move on from another unwelcome distraction following suspended star all-rounder Ben Stokes’ availability saga. But he also chided Australia over how they manipulated the Bairstow incident.
Asked at Friday’s media conference if he would use the Bairstow banter as motivation, Root fired back: “Absolutely.
“You look at the pictures from that press conference and I think it’s very important you be very careful how you interpret that,” he said.
“I’d like to think that Steve Smith has a good amount of humility about him and that he’s laughing at the scenario and the comments rather than the situation of things.”
Root was more strident while talking to the travelling English cricket media, saying he was “very disappointed” in Australia’s reaction.
“Well, if that’s not motivation to the players I don’t know what is,” he said.
“At the end of the game you are obviously very disappointed but to see a reaction like that in a press conference is… I mean if that can’t get you up for the next game then I don’t know what can.”
– Niggle and banter –
England are also miffed that Australia’s players used sledging about the headbutt to goad Bairstow into playing a loose shot, triggering a lower order batting collapse as they were skittled for just 195 in the second innings in Brisbane.
“I think there’s a place for a bit of banter out on the field, as long as it stays as banter and doesn’t become more than that,” Root said.
“And if it does, the umpires need to make sure it has a line that stops at the same place for both sides.
“You want there to be a bit of niggle and a bit of banter flying around. It’s good for the game, it’s good to watch, it’s good to be involved in.
“But there are certain things that people know they shouldn’t say on the field and I think it’s important that both sides, not just one side, get that right and don’t overstep any more.”
Root said a decision would be made after Friday’s final practice on Moeen Ali’s injured spinning finger before finalising his eleven.
“His batting has been a huge part of our team for a long time. I think he could still play as a batter,” he said.
“We’ll have to look at the situation with Moeen, see how bad it is, look at the conditions but it’s definitely not out of the question,” Root added, when asked about the possibility of a debut for 20-year-old leg-spinner Mason Crane.
Root also gave an indication that Moeen, if he plays, would again bat ahead of Bairstow in the absence of Stokes.
“He’s a top-class batter and he’s someone who has the potential to go on and become one of the best batters in the world,” he said.
Holders England are bracing for an all-out effort to get back into the Ashes series. An England team have not won or drawn a series in Australia after losing the first Test since 1954-1955. – AFP
Story first published: 1st December 2017