Australia can expect to face a fired-up England and a furious crowd in the third Ashes Test at Headingley starting on Thursday as the row over Jonny Bairstow’s divisive dismissal at Lord’s rumbles on.
British prime minister Rishi Sunak and Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese have even traded verbal bouncers over the issue, which started when Bairstow was given out stumped by opposing wicketkeeper Alex Carey during what the England batsman thought was a break in play.
Bairstow’s exit, in a match Australia won by 43 runs to go 2-0 up in the five-match Ashes despite England captain Ben Stokes’ stunning 155, sparked a chorus of boos at a normally sedate Lord’s and led to three MCC members being suspended for allegedly abusing visiting players in the pavilion.
To add fuel to the fire, the third Test is taking place at Bairstow’s Yorkshire home ground, with increased security measures expected at Headingley – traditionally one of English cricket’s most raucous venues.
Many within the Australian game have been stunned by the vehemence of English reaction to a legitimate dismissal and the attempts to link it to their side’s Sandpapergate ball-tampering controversy in South Africa five years ago.
But former England captain Mike Atherton said rather than Test world champions Australia abusing the ‘spirit of cricket’, Bairstow had been guilty of “dozy cricket”.
Stokes insisted he would have withdrawn the appeal and Joe Root, his predecessor as England skipper, endorsed that view by saying Tuesday: “As a team we want to play our cricket in a certain way and leave a certain legacy.”
Asked how Bairstow might react Root, recalling England’s record-fourth innings chase of 378 against India, when he and his Yorkshire teammate both struck unbeaten centuries, said: “Go back to Edgbaston last year, someone said something to him – I think it was Virat Kohli – and brought the best out of him. Let’s hope it happens again.”
Steve Smith, stripped of the Australia captaincy and given a year-long ban for his part in the Sandpapergate incident, now heads into his 100th Test following a fine hundred at Lord’s.
Long the target for taunts from English crowds the star batsman insisted: “It doesn’t bother me.”
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I know the person I am, I know how I want to go about things. I am out here playing my game and for my country.”
Pat Cummins, bidding to become the first Australia captain in 22 years to win an Ashes series in England, said the fall-out from Bairstow’s dismissal could galvanise the tourists as much as the home team.
“These kind of moments can really strengthen a side,” he said. “He [Carey] has been fantastic behind the wickets. We’ll look after him.”
Only an Australia side inspired by batting great Don Bradman have come from 2-0 down to win a Test series, taking the 1936-37 Ashes 3-2.
However, the corresponding Headingley Ashes clash four years ago saw Stokes’ stunning unbeaten hundred guide England to a remarkable one-wicket win and coach Brendon McCullum said: “We believe that we can still come back in this series.”
Yet for all the angst over Bairstow’s exit, England’s poor position owes more to their failure to exploit helpful bowling conditions after winning the toss at Lord’s and a first-innings collapse from 188-1 to 325 all out that featured several reckless shots.
Veteran England spearhead James Anderson, Test cricket’s most successful pace bowler, has taken just three wickets in the opening two matches at an expensive 75.33 apiece.
His place could be under threat, with England able to reshuffle their side after batsman Ollie Pope suffered a series-ending shoulder injury at Lord’s.
Harry Brook could now be promoted to No 3 in Pope’s place, with spinner Moeen Ali recalled after missing the second Test due to a finger injury.
Meanwhile, express quick Mark Wood and all-rounder Chris Woakes may be included at the expense of Anderson, 41 later this month, and Josh Tongue.
Australia are set to make just the one enforced change with Todd Murphy replacing Nathan Lyon following his fellow off-spinner’s tour-ending calf injury at Lord’s.
© Agence France-Presse