The Press Test daily: Bairstow the butt
Thank the Lord above for month-old headbutts giving us something to write about on a one-hour day.
“Bloody hell”, we thought, when the Gabba Test just about dragged itself into the final day. ”
“How in the name of Jardine are we going to get 500 words of snark out of an hour’s low-key cricket in front of 30000 empty seats and the Barmy Army?”
It was adorably naïve of us to worry. Imagine thinking a lack of on-field action would mean there would be nothing to discuss. This is the 2017/18 Ashes, for crying out loud.
What happened, of course, was that Jonny Bairstow headbutted Cameron Bancroft. Or didn’t. Or sort of did but not really.
“There was no intent or malice,” was the official verdict, on both Bairstow’s unorthodox method of greeting, and England’s back-up bowling.
It really should have been obvious as soon as this story started to emerge that there was far less to it than some in the media were suggesting.
If Bairstow really had properly headbutted a Western Australian Test prospect on the first night of an Ashes tour that had already seen one key England player ruled out for bar-based fisticuffs, there’s literally no way that would have taken a month to come out.
But even after today’s play, as Bancroft gave one of the all-time great press conferences, there was still an attempt from some to make something more of it.
Even as Steve Smith sat next to Bancroft giggling, one Aussie journalist was talking about how a headbutt “could have broken his nose, put him in the hospital”.
— Adam Mobbs (@AdamMobbs) November 26, 2017
Clearly, both the Aussie players and media have deliberately timed the release of Bairstow’s headbutt to hurt England at a vulnerable time.
It was clever of the players to use it to try and unnerve Bairstow while he was batting, and by all accounts it seems to have worked.
The Aussie media’s role is slightly more embarrassing. Never afraid to abandon journalistic integrity for a good old-fashioned bit of cheerleading or Pom-baiting, they have spent much of the last 24 hours pretending to be gravely concerned by the “drinking culture” in the England team.
It’s understandable, of course, with Australia being a famously dry country. It’s hard for them to understand a country where drinking is such a big part of life as it is in England.
We’ve all heard the famous stories about David Boon drinking 52 cans of Diet Coke during a flight to the old country.
Some have even gone as far as suggesting that some of Nathan Lyon’s less spicy pre-series quotes about “head-butting the line” may have been an oblique reference to what transpired in that Perth bar.
For one thing, this may be crediting Lyon with the sort of subtlety and guile that exists only in his bowling, it leaves us having to explain how Michael Clarke was able to make his own clever reference to BairstowheadbuttingBancroftasaweirdkindofmisjudgedgreetinginaPerthbarforsomereasongate almost two-and-a-half years before it happened.
But while the incident itself is clearly less than nothing, you can see why Trevor Bayliss was so exasperated.
It’s all undeniably very funny – Bancroft has just hit the winning runs in an Ashes Test, but even had he bagged a pair his would still have been the greatest Test debut of all time – but it hurts England.
Interesting to see the reaction to the Bairstow story. There is no agenda. It happened. Major problem in Eng Team with drinking.
— Peter Lalor (@plalor) November 26, 2017
This perhaps explains why a Bayliss felt the need to both point out the staggering banality of the incident at hand, while also saying the players would need a “stern word”.
At first, this may seem a contradiction, but his concern is not that Bairstow has done anything ‘wrong’, more that he has given Australia yet more ammunition.
It was typical of Australia that they knew just the moment to use it in order to cause maximum damage. It’s advantage Australia in more ways than one.
Mohammad Abbas hat-trick puts Hampshire in command against Middlesex
Lancashire’s Matt Parkinson produced a ball of the century contender against Northamptonshire.
Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj earn first BCCI contracts
Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, have suffered contract demotions.
Dom Sibley injury adds to England’s worries with Ben Stokes facing 12 weeks out
Stokes was injured playing in the IPL while Sibley was in County Championship action with Warwickshire.
Can England cope without talisman Ben Stokes against New Zealand this summer?
All-rounder Stokes faces up to 12 weeks out with a fractured finger.
Ben Stokes ruled out for up to three months with broken finger
The England all-rounder will have surgery on the injury picked up playing in the Indian Premier League.
Scott Borthwick hits century as Durham get better of Essex at Chelmsford
Essex fell apart on the opening day of their County Championship clash with Durham.
Babar Azam wants to top rankings in Test cricket as well
Currently sixth on the Test batting rankings, Babar Azam hopes to change that as soon as possible.
Cricket Australia announces contracted women’s players for 2021-22
Australia Women will host India and England this summer before heading to New Zealand for the ICC World Cup in March, 2022.
On this day in 2009: Andy Flower appointed England team director
The former Zimbabwe captain had been in charge on an interim basis since the previous January following Peter Moores’ sacking.
Wisden salute Jason Holder’s leadership with spot among Cricketers of the Year
Holder joins England batsmen Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley, Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan and Kent all-rounder Darren Stevens.