England get fired up at perceived Australian ridicule after defeat
Joe Root has set the tone for what is expected to be one of the most fractious Ashes tests of recent years by telling his players to use the image of Steve Smith and Australia laughing at England over the Jonny Bairstow ‘ butt’ as motivation going into today’s second test.
The tourists are upset with how their hosts behaved in Brisbane, and tensions are rising ahead of a test England cannot afford to lose as:
● England are angry at how Australia ‘ played’ the incident between Bairstow and Cameron Bancroft.
● They are understood to be particularly upset at the nature of other, more personal insults aimed at Bairstow that went beyond the confrontation with Bancroft.
● Jimmy Anderson used his column in The Telegraph to label Australia “bullies” while claiming they deliberately spoke close to the stump mic so allegations against Bairstow would be picked up by the media.
● Australian batsman Peter Handscomb confirmed there would be no let- up in the hosts’ on- field verbals.
● Smith turned the spotlight on Root by telling the England captain he has a technical flaw in his batting he cannot solve in this series which means he is prone to getting out lbw.
England are determined there will be no repeat of their humiliation in Brisbane, where the image of Smith laughing uproariously in his postmatch press conference while Bancroft explained his “weird” encounter with Bairstow encapsulated Australia ridiculing the tourists after their 10- wicket win.
The incident led to Andrew Strauss enforcing a midnight curfew, and the feeling of being treated like schoolboys has added to England’s sense of injustice towards their opponents.
And, as Root prepares to pick up his team for a game where England believe conditions will suit their pace bowlers, he i s adamant Smith has given him all the ammunition he needs.
“Well, if that’s not motivation to the players, I don’t know what is,” said Root in reference to Smith’s press conference with Bancroft.
“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. Hopefully that will work massively in our favour.
“I know it’s an Ashes series, there is a lot on the line and naturally you are going to be motivated for every game, but knowing the characters in our dressing room, that will really give them a bit of something else to make sure we put things right this week.”
There will be no let- up from Australia because they know the tactics are working.
Bairstow was goaded into playing a poor shot in the second innings and a lower order collapse ensued, with Handscomb saying his side will not tone down their behaviour.
“It’s something that’s part of the game — always has been, always will be,” said Handscomb.
“So if there’s a moment where we can exploit someone’s mental capabilities, then, yeah, we’re going to go about it. There are moments you pick and choose the right words. We can try and look for some new ammo, we can try and use it.”
Handscomb played with Bairstow and Root at Yorkshire last summer but all friendships have been set aside for the Ashes. Darren Lehmann, the Australia coach, has strong Yorkshire connections, too, and his fingerprints are all over the targeting of Bairstow.
“I’m not trying to make him [ Bairstow] feel good about himself — that’s not my job,” said Handscomb. “When I played with him at Yorkshire, we had a great time together and I really like Jonny, we got along really, really well. But it’s a different ball game now. If I ever go back to Yorkshire, I dare say we’ll hang out and have a good time and it’ll be perfectly fine. But during the Ashes, mate, it’s about winning the game for Australia first and foremost.”
Handscomb said there was a limit to Australia’s sledging.
“There is a line, we just have to make sure we don’t cross it.” Root was not buying that.
“I think their line and our line are slightly different things — let’s leave it at that,” said the England captain.
“I think it’s something you expect when you come here now. You look at Faf- gate last year,” he said referring to when Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain, was accused of ball tampering in Australia.
“There were comments last time we were here as well, with Trotty [ Jonathan Trott] and other players.
“It’s part of touring Australia now, I think. It’s a strategy they use on occasions and we’ve got to move forward as a team. We all knew it was blown widely out of proportion.”
While England are certain to be in a storm at the Adelaide Oval, Root is confident his team can deal with anything Australia throw at them after stating the Bairstow incident has brought the squad together.
“I think it is really important that we look after each other. I think that has been a big strength of ours and a big focus of ours, since and before I took over.
“It’s been great to see lads doing everything they can to make sure Jonny i s okay and make sure as a group we’re all okay as well,” he said.
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. Hopefully that will work massively in our favour. Joe Root on Steve Smith’s press conference reaction
English skipper Joe Root has been riled by Steve Smith.