Category: Australia cricket news (page 4 of 71)

The Steve Smith headline generator

Steve Smith (via @CricketAus)

Steve Smith was spotted having a beer in New York last week. Several newspapers ran really stupid stories about it with really stupid headlines. We were going to write about the stupidest one but then we forgot what it was and they also deleted the story.

Fortunately, we’ve now remembered, allowing this website to live up to its unwritten tagline: “Yesterday’s news… today!”

A whole family of newspapers headlined their stories: Disgraced Smith a sad sight drinking alone in New York

Based on this, we have devised The Steve Smith Headline Generator.

It goes like this…

Disgraced Smith a sad sight [doing what] [where]

That’s it. It’s that simple and it works for pretty much anything.

Some fictional examples:

  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight reading his phone at the airport
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight watching a film at the cinema
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight scratching his nose in a post office queue
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight eating a pizza in a pizzeria
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight putting rubbish in a bin in the central business district
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight doing a bit of a half-run quick step thing while crossing a road in the South of France
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight swimming in the Ionian sea
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight speaking to the media at a press conference
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight pushing away photographers on his doorstep
  • Disgraced Smith a sad sight sleeping in his bed

Are England the ultimate flat pitch one-day side?

Alex Hales (via YouTube)

On June 19, 2018, England took the Australia bowling attack apart as if it were a giant Lego penis and grandma was coming over. The dismantling was rapid, efficient and utterly comprehensive.

They made 481-6, the highest total in the history of one-day internationals.

We strongly disagree with the idea that people want to see more boundaries, but there’s no harm in having the odd one or two of these front leg clearing festivals from time to time – and if they’re held against Australia, so much the better.

Honestly, if you’re tired of Australians being on the receiving end of world record totals, you’re tired of life.


There’s a temptation to almost write off these sorts of totals because they’re so ridiculous, but no matter how flat the pitch and no matter how short the boundaries, this sort of innings requires huge ambition and consistent execution. The Australians gave a sense of how difficult it is to pull off when they batted.

In contrast, England are good at this, in no small part because England are built for this. They’ve been conditioned to start hitting early and to keep on hitting throughout an innings. It is a very specific skill and they are probably as good at it as any one-day side has ever been.

This is in no small part because they tend to field nine, ten or even 11 capable batsmen – a ridiculous number which greatly reduces the consequences of any individual batsman losing his wicket.

They play accordingly. Even if that lower order isn’t ultimately called upon, its presence is liberating. The short tail effectively supercharges the top order.

A flat pitch bowling attack

England also have a bowling attack that is honed for high-scoring matches. This is a thankless and undervalued art and we want to quickly pay tribute to it because it is something that is almost wholly overlooked.

Some days you restrict the opposition to 350 and that is a very good effort – a fact that is currently acknowledged somewhere around zero per cent of the time. (When the batsmen saunter past such a target, everyone gushes about what they’ve done.)

England’s bowlers are at their best when the ball is flying to all parts. It’s counter-intuitive, because all people see are the boundaries, but the bowlers are very, very good at shrugging off the blows while unleashing occasional rapid stiletto stabs.

Bowlers should only be judged against what could have been scored on any given day. If every other side in the world would concede eight an over and you concede seven an over, that is literally match-winning.


A lot of people think that one-day cricket is all about flat pitch mega-totals these days because the only time they pay attention is when there’s a flat pitch mega total. However, two matches before England’s record total, the winnings score was 218-7.

The big concern for England is supposed to be whether their batsmen will be able to adapt on days when runs are likely to be less plentiful, but we’d argue the bowling is a bigger concern.

England’s one-day bowling strategy is all about variety. In recent times they have generally fielded a left-arm swing bowler, a right-arm new ball bowler, a leg-spinner, an off-spinner and a bang-it-in pace bowler. (They have no left-arm swing bowler for the World Cup.)

Variety is ideal when you want to ask the batsmen lots of different questions. It’s less good when conditions favour one particular type of bowling. When that happens in a 50-over game, all you really want to do is ask the exact same question as many times as possible, and that’s much harder to do when you have your eggs in so many different baskets.

If England have a weakness, this is it. This is where they will be beaten.

Australia redefine “the line” (again)

Langer and Paine (via YouTube)

We always do our best to keep you updated on the exact whereabouts of “the line,” according to its official custodians, the Australia cricket team.

In news that will be hugely reassuring to everyone, Australia’s new captain and coach say that they are well aware of the location of the mythical “line” and have revealed that it is currently what separates “banter” from “abuse”.

Justin Langer said: “If I play Uno with my daughter there’s lots of banter. We sort of sledge each other, but we don’t abuse each other.”

Justin Langer’s daughter may know the difference between banter and abuse but it’s been a blurry divide for some Australian cricketers in the recent past – just as the difference between “cheating” and “not cheating” has at times escaped them.

Fortunately, captain Tim Paine can reassure us all.

“We know what’s right and what’s wrong, so it’s pretty simple.”

Well that’s a relief.

Did Justin Langer say it was “humbling” to be appointed Australia coach?

Justin Langer (via YouTube)

Of course he did. This is not a bet anyone would have taken. Justin Langer is exactly the kind of guy who would say something like “humbling” when given a new job.

He did however come up with an even better quote – and by “even better” we of course mean “even more ridiculous”. Honestly, it’s one of the all-time great Australian sporting quotes. We’re really looking forward to sharing it with you.

But first, let’s deal with the ‘humbling’ thing.

“It is humbling to be appointed as coach of the Australian men’s cricket team.”

‘Humbling’ means making you feel unimportant or insignificant. Justin Langer clearly feels that coach of the Australian men’s cricket team is a very trivial, worthless thing to be.

Perhaps this is because unlike the players the coach doesn’t get to wear the hat. Justin Langer really loves that hat.

Another thing that happened when Justin Langer was appointed coach of the Australian men’s cricket team was that he reflected on the Australia teams he was a part of back in the day. What is about to follow isn’t actually the even more ridiculous quote. It is another one. We’re still building up to the even more ridiculous quote.

He said:

“It was so competitive to get into the team, but when you walked through the door for that Baggy Green, it was like brotherhood, it was like a nightclub, it was awesome.”

Which was it, Justin Langer? Which of those three things – brotherhood, a nightclub and awesome – was it actually like? Because it can’t have been all three.

We do not have a brother, so we are willing to accept that brotherhood could conceivably also be awesome. We have however been to a nightclub and we are quite confident that a nightclub is not awesome.

Nightclubs are harrowing places of dancing where it is impossible to hold a conversation, where you are left at the mercy of your own thoughts. Your own thoughts will be stuff like “why is everyone enjoying this?” and “how can I enjoy this?” and “why can’t I stop thinking about how I’m not enjoying this?” and “why do I suddenly feel really nauseous?” and “how long am I trapped here feeling really nauseous?”

That is not awesome. Justin Langer seems very confused about what walking through the door for that Baggy Green was like.

Langer also went on to claim that he is “a bit of a hippy”. He said:

“My daughter gave me a shave two days ago because one month every year I like to grow a beard and not wear shoes.”

Again, this is not the even more ridiculous quote. This is just another average Justin Langer quote. This is him telling you that his ideas about alternative lifestyles hinge on facial hair and footwear.

We like the idea that Justin Langer would do these two things for exactly one month in every calendar year. We hope it coincides with the Ashes.

But enough of all this. You’ve waited long enough. Let’s get to the even more ridiculous quote.

“It was ANZAC Day a few weeks ago and one thing about Australia is mateship is really important. Elite mateship within the Australian cricket team is going to be a key value.”

Please let that sink in. Justin Langer has just coined the term ‘elite mateship’ and rather than being embarrassed about it, he’s instead doubled down and made it a central tenet of his whole philosophy.

Needless to say, we are absolutely delighted with Justin Langer’s appointment as coach of the Australian men’s cricket team.

I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It – the county cricket and crying Aussies edition

A semi-regular feature in which we ask a fella going by the name of Prince Prefab about cricket – even though he hates cricket. We are in bold. Prince Prefab is not.

King Cricket: We’re speaking now on the eve of the County Championship and I am all the way excited to hear how this competition impacts on your life.

It does not. Unless there are crying Australians I’m not interested. Although I do love counties. I like to look at maps of the counties. Might get a county map and get it framed.

It literally has zero impact?

I’ve honestly never given it a single thought. Probably thought about badminton more. And I’ve never thought about badminton.

The only thing I know about county cricket (and I suspect that it probably isn’t the case any more) is that Yorkshire are the only team to have players only born in Yorkshire play for them. Was that ever the case?

That was the case until not quite as long ago as you’d probably imagine. Okay, let’s talk about crying Australians then. How did that whole thing seem to you, viewed from your position ‘outside cricket’?

Brilliant. Great fun. A right laugh. Didn’t understand the crying. I’ll cry at anything; I’ve cried at a wedding in Neighbours but if I intentionally set out to do something and then got caught doing it and then decided to apologise for doing it, I don’t reckon I’d cry.

Also, why was that lad’s dad there when he was saying sorry and crying? I reckon 12 is the cut off point for having your dad with you when you’ve fucked up.

We should probably try and pin that down actually. Here in the UK, 12 means high school for most people – maybe the first year, maybe the second. We need to imagine a high school scenario where you’re in pretty major trouble for dishonesty to work out whether or not it still makes sense to have your dad there for the apology.

Well, for context, (although this is not about dishonesty) I was about ten, playing football in the street with my dad. I was taking a penalty against our neighbour’s drive and he was in goal and I scored an amazing goal but the ball kept rising and smashed our neighbour’s garage window. Now, bearing in mind it was my dad’s fault for letting the ball get past him, and I was TEN, he ran inside and made me go and knock on the neighbour’s door, show them the damage and apologise. He watched this from behind our curtains. That, I believe, is proper parenting.

So what you’re saying is that by the age of ten, your dad felt it was absolutely legitimate for you to face the music alone? I think that’s only part-way conclusive though because maybe his involvement influenced that decision. Would it be fair to say that if he hadn’t been in nets, he might have accompanied you for the apology? (By the way, our favourite detail in this story is that he felt it necessary to return home at speed.)

Yeah he legged it. You know what, I’ve changed my mind. If you want your dad there, fine. Quite touching in a way. This isn’t about masculinity, this isn’t about being strong, burying emotion; like I said I love a good cry. Men should cry, it does you good to have a cry now and again, but I don’t understand what the tears were for here. In fact I don’t understand the whole thing. Cheating in front of 20 cameras. What did they think would happen?

Well this is the thing. Some feel that maybe they were up to lower-grade no-good previously or were up to the exact same sort of no-good but had previously managed to avoid being detected. We’re of the opinion that even if they’d never done this exact thing before, it would be weird if the sandpapering were an absolute outlier.

We suppose the crying was a moment of clarity. Kind of: “We lost sight of the bigger picture and now we see how annoyed everyone is, we kind of feel bad for letting everyone down.” Does that ring true?

Yeah, I can see that. Also, I’m not saying it wasn’t intense. The whole world laughing at you, accusing you, your prime minister’s having a go – bet it was horrible. I mean, even I was interested and as you know, I have no interest in cricket.

This seems like a bit of a non-sequitur at this point in the conversation, but you say that I have to ask you this. Which is the worst county?


Exactly how bad was Australia’s tour of South Africa?

Excuse making (via Sky Sports video)

Most Test tours are bad tours these days because it is rare for any team to win away from home. That said, there are different degrees of badness. We have a faint suspicion that Australia’s recently-completed tour of South Africa might have been unusually bad. Let’s try and work out whether that really was the case.

It’s important to be methodical when you’re asking a nebulous sort of question like this, so let’s set a series of sub-questions and try and answer each of them in turn. There are no points on offer here – we aren’t going to precisely quantify the badness – but hopefully by breaking down the larger question into smaller ones, we can get a clearer idea of how things went. These are questions you could ask of any tour but in this particular instance they are being applied to South Africa v Australia.

Are you ready?

Okay, let’s go.

Did the team lose any significant players to injury, retirement or for some other reason?

Teams lose players all the time for all sorts of different reasons. Often, it’s not a problem, because the player in question is being deliberately discarded because they aren’t very good at Test cricket. Sometimes, however, their absence is keenly felt as the player leaves a vacuum that cannot be filled (even though nature famously finds such situations abhorrent).

Did Australia lose any significant players to injury? No, not really. Not in the long-term anyway. Not beyond the usual wear-and-tear on fast bowlers that occasionally sees one or another sitting out a game or two.

Did Australia lose any significant player to retirement? No, they did not. South Africa actually had a far worse series than Australia in this regard, losing Morne Morkel for that very reason.

Did Australia lose any significant player for any other reason? Yes. Yes, they did. They lost no fewer than three players thanks to a ball-tampering attempt so woeful and ineffective that the umpires didn’t even feel it necessary to penalise them five runs.

While all three players who have been lost could eventually return, you’d have to say that the side will be worse off for a decent enough period that their absence can legitimately be considered ‘a bit of a blow’.

As it stands, Australia have lost their best batsman and second-best batsman for one whole year. They also lost their captain and vice captain for the same period because they are the exact same people.

They have lost both their opening batsmen (although the inferior one could return slightly sooner).

It’s probably worth mentioning that they lost their coach too.

Verdict: Australia just lost over a quarter of the team and it was a rather important quarter. This was a bad tour for Australia.

Did the team lose any matches by an enormous margin?

Chasing 612 to win in the fourth Test, Australia were bowled out for 119. Their last seven wickets fell for 31. Two players reached double figures.

Verdict: This was a bad tour for Australia.

Was the team reduced to cheating?


Verdict: This was a bad tour for Australia.

Were any of the players reduced to tears?

Yes. Several of them.

Verdict: This was a bad tour for Australia.

Did the team in any way embarrass itself?

Just to repeat what we said four sections ago, Australia lost three players to a ball-tampering attempt so woeful and ineffective that the umpires didn’t even feel it necessary to penalise them five runs.

That, in itself, is pretty embarrassing. Throw in a bizarre and pointless fake explanation where they said they planned to use tape with dirt on it instead of the sandpaper they actually used and we have to go up an embarrassment level. Then the whole country went mental and revealed itself to be the only cricket-playing nation that had no inkling whatsoever that Australian cricketers might not actually be the sport’s ultimate moral supremos after all.

It was all very inglorious and unaware and hypocritical and a big, great overreaction. And yes, because of all of those things, the team did in a very real sense embarrass itself (and this is without even mentioning the run-out ‘celebrations’ that we’re going to come to in a couple of sections time or the whole barney-on-the-stairs thing that we’re not going to mention at all other than here in this sentence).

Oh, and then David Warner went rogue. We almost forgot that bit.

Verdict: This was a bad tour for Australia.

Did results deteriorate?

The nature of Test cricket means that the winning margin can be expressed in runs or in wickets. This can be problematic if you’re trying to make direct comparisons.

Let’s take a look at the results in this series and try and work out whether they got worse for Australia.

  • Australia won the first Test by 118 runs
  • South Africa won the second Test by six wickets
  • South Africa won the third Test by 322 runs
  • South Africa won the fourth Test by 492 runs

Clearly losing is worse than winning and losing by a greater number of runs is worse than losing by fewer runs, so the only question that remains is whether losing by 322 runs is worse than losing by six wickets.

Going off average scores, six wickets would generally result in fewer than 322 runs, so we’d say that the third Test result was worse for Australia than the second Test result.

Verdict: Results deteriorated. This was a bad tour for Australia.

Did the team start out kind of noisy and full of itself but end up quiet, subdued and slightly humiliated?

This is a great way of deducing whether or not a team had a bad tour or not. By comparing the players’ general demeanour at the start and end points of the tour, it becomes easy to see what has changed.

If the team is nervous at the start and all boisterous and irrepressible at the end then it’s been a good tour. If the team starts off gobby and cocky but ends up mute and diminished then it’s been a bad tour.

Way back at the start of March, Australia had a great deal of conspicuous fun running out AB de Villiers for a duck. Nathan Lyon dropped the ball at him; David Warner’s inner chimp took control (and also locked himself in the cockpit for the remainder of the tour); and afterwards, everyone accepted their fines and resolved to carry on doing almost exactly the same thing anyway, regardless of the financial cost.

By the end of the tour, one of those players was in a different country and Dean Elgar was making reference to “the most docile test” he’d ever played against Australia.

Appropriately enough, the series ended with Nathan Lyon being run out. No-one roared in his face because Australia were not at this point credible opposition worthy of face-roaring.

Verdict: This was a bad tour for Australia.

In summary

We posed seven questions and after all seven of them we concluded that Australia’s tour of South Africa was a bad one. This leads us to believe that regarded as a whole, Australia’s tour of South Africa was very bad.


Why did Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft think that cheating using sandpaper was worse than doing the exact same cheating using something that wasn’t technically sandpaper?

Sandpaper (via Sky Sports)

When we first saw Cameron Bancroft tampering with the ball using sandpaper, we thought to ourself: “That is sandpaper” – and so did everyone else.

We were therefore very much surprised when he later claimed that it was not in fact sandpaper but something akin to home-made sandpaper.

“We had a discussion during the break and I saw an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from rough patches on the wicket to change the ball condition,” he explained.

It has since turned out that no, actually it was sandpaper all along because of course it was.

This revelation both made sense and also entirely didn’t make sense.

It made sense because the main thing sticky tape sticks to is itself, so it would have been a hell of a feat for Bancroft to keep it in his pocket all flat and rigid like that.

It didn’t make sense because why did Bancroft say that it wasn’t sandpaper? It was such a pointless distinction it literally didn’t even occur to us that it might not be true.

Bancroft and Steve Smith were in that press conference admitting what they’d done. Yet at the same time as coming clean, they also decided that they would tell an outright lie about that one specific detail. How did they hit upon that particular course of action?

Smith: We’ve been caught in what was clearly a premeditated attempt to alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper. What the hell are we going to do? What shall we say?

Bancroft: Let’s mostly confess but then say that we didn’t use sandpaper. Let’s say it was tape that we sort of made into sandpaper once we were out there on the field of play.

Smith: Yes, that’s an excellent idea. That should entirely negate everything we’ve done and ensure we sidestep any and all criticism.

Seriously, why would you lie about it? The question demands some scrutiny.

In that initial press conference…

1. Smith and Bancroft admitted ball-tampering. The nature of the material used to carry out the ball-tampering did not negate this, so this cannot be the reason why they decided to lie.

2. Smith and Bancroft admitted planning to tamper with the ball. They said they’d come up with the idea in the break. They weren’t claiming this was a spur of the moment thing, so this cannot be the reason why they decided to lie.

3. Smith and Bancroft admitted using something very much akin to sandpaper to tamper with the ball. The primary aim of rubbing the hypothetical sticky tape in dirt was to create a thing with a coarse side which could then be used to rough the surface of the ball – so basically sandpaper. The nature of the thing cannot be the reason why they decided to lie.

4. Smith and Bancroft did not admit to sourcing actual sandpaper. This is the only difference between what happened and what they said happened. It would seem that for Smith and Bancroft the threshold for wrongdoing lies at the very specific point between ‘making sandpaper’ and ‘purchasing or otherwise acquiring sandpaper’.


This no doubt sounds very much ridiculous to you, but it’s the nature of ‘ball maintenance’ that everyone has a slightly different but very precise idea about what is okay and what is not okay.

For example, a lot of people feel that sucking a sweet and then taking the resultant sugary spit from your tongue to shine the ball is okay, but that taking sugary spit directly from a sweet on your tongue and using that to shine the ball is not okay. For these people there is a critical ratio of sugar-to-saliva beyond which you become a massive great cheat.

You will probably have your own opinion about where exactly the threshold lies. That opinion will no doubt be mental.

Darren Lehmann has another opinion again. We don’t know what that opinion is, but it is so radically different from Smith and Bancroft’s that the poor man has had to resign from his job as Australia coach due to the extraordinary weight of disappointment he is currently feeling.

Has David Warner really ‘gone rogue’ and if so, why? Let’s examine the evidence

Absolutely the best recent headline about Australia’s ball tampering is the one on Fox Sports suggesting that David Warner has ‘gone rogue’.

The evidence for David Warner’s rogue-going is that (a) he was sitting on his own at one point and (b) he drank Champagne with friends who weren’t cricketers.

Based on this, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we have also gone rogue, because (a) sounds rather lovely while (b) is definitely something we’ve done at weddings and female birthdays.

What is however stated less explicitly is (c) a general vibe that Warner is distancing himself from the team and is also kind of furious. Unnamed players have warned that there could be an ‘incident’ (which, admittedly, could just mean that one or two of them want to lamp him) and there’s a sense that throughout the tour he’s been gradually drifting further and further into Davidwarnerland where David Warner makes the laws and David Warner enforces the laws and everyone else is somehow in the wrong.

If you’re reading articles elsewhere today, there’s a good chance you’ll come across a sentence along the lines of “there’s a growing feeling that Warner was the ringleader” and this probably feels fairly credible to you.

Let’s bulletpoint the circumstantial evidence.

The third of those is probably the only one that’s truly of relevance because we all know there are plenty of arseholes who don’t tamper with cricket balls.

Several UK newspapers have run a story that Warner told England players how he used the strapping on his hand to knacker up the surface of the ball a bit during the Ashes.

Here is a picture of Warner’s hand during the Port Elizabeth Test (thanks to Darryl for pointing this out to us).

Warner’s hand (via Twitter)

This image raises three important questions in escalating order of importance:

  • Does David Warner really need that much strapping?
  • David Warner puts his wife’s name on his bandages?
  • What the hell does it mean that David Warner puts his wife’s name on his bandages? That means something, right? There’s no way that doesn’t say something about their relationship. (His kids’ names are also on there, but very much as afterthoughts.)

It’s important to point out that Warner is right-handed, so he shouldn’t have required assistance writing the names. (Several of you will no doubt feel that he probably did require assistance writing the names anyway.)

There has also been a suggestion that Cameron Bancroft only became Ball Management Guy after a dressing room attendant spotted Warner putting sandpaper in his strapping during the second Test at Port Elizabeth. This claim has the general air of being not enormously true based on the vagueness of the source, but we mention it anyway because you never know. We certainly wouldn’t bet big money against it and not just because we already have a lot of outgoings and to do so would therefore be somewhat irresponsible as well as juvenile.

The most compelling case for David Warner as ringleader has been put forward by journalist Geoff Lemon. He thinks Warner’s smarter than he’s generally given credit for (which, in all honesty, isn’t actually all that hard given the public perception of him) but he says he’s also prone to wild mood swings and high aggression. Even never having met him, those qualities just seem instantly and 100 per cent believable.

Lemon doesn’t think Steve Smith can control Warner and instead just tries to accommodate him. He thinks the South Africa experience has got to Warner and that he’s increasingly been driven by what he perceives to be righteous rage. Under a weak captain and an indulgent and protective coach who lacks perspective and self-awareness, you can see how that kind of an attitude might lead Warner towards ever-darker parts of the grey area and incrementally on from there.

An alternative view, which we’ll put forward for balance, is that David Warner is a very convenient and beautifully appropriate fall guy.

We were in a police line-up once. It was when we were at university. We can’t remember exactly how it came about, but we think that someone from the police came onto the campus and said that they needed young men with short dark hair to make up the numbers. So we went down to the station along with a bunch of other short-dark-haired middle-class students and stood next to a lad from the estate with somewhat longer hair and then the person came in and said it was the lad from the estate and we all got a tenner and went and bought ourselves ten pints.

The point is, take almost any conceivable combination of current Test cricketers, line them up alongside David Warner and then ask people to guess which one’s been a dick. Doesn’t even matter what the crime is – who are people going to pick? People are going to pick David Warner because he’s a dick.

The idea that Australia did something wrong and that Warner was 99 per cent responsible is an easy thing to accept because it just seems so fundamentally plausible.

Warner too will be aware of this. He’s spent most of his career feeling like everyone’s got it in for him and while there’s a dash of paranoia and a soupçon of insecurity in that assessment, it’s also pretty much fully accurate and correct.

The man himself, you feel, will have a strong sense of the way the wind is blowing this week and might therefore have concluded that he might as well ‘go rogue’ before he’s officially banished. Why wait?

Australia have been caught ball-tampering. But what was the worst aspect? And what was the funniest?

Excuse making (all images via Sky Sports video)

Well this is very much hilarious but also reprehensible because saying the second bit is part of the unwritten contract we have all entered into as cricket fans.

Australia have been caught ball-tampering, a simple statement that doesn’t really do justice to all that’s happened and how people have reacted to it.

Australia planned to tamper with the ball, tampered with the ball, attempted to cover-up tampering with the ball and then, once they were flat out of options, admitted tampering with the ball and claimed it would never happen again (good luck taking 20 wickets in your next home Test match, lads).

It’s all a bit sordid. Let’s try and work out which was the worst bit (and also which was the funniest).

Altering the condition of the ball

The kind of cheating where you subsequently have to be incredibly skilful for it to actually have an impact is not, in our eyes, the world’s greatest crime.

The written law is that cricketers can only polish the ball. The unwritten law is pretty much: “Just don’t get caught, okay, because then we all have to feign outrage.”

Different people are happy with different things when it comes to ball “maintenance”. There will never be agreement, so the unwritten law becomes the pragmatic solution. Vithushan Ehantharajah wrote a truly excellent piece about reverse swing for The Cricket Monthly that features many of the common techniques. (In the lower leagues, a team-mate of Special Correspondent Dad’s used to apply lip balm to his trousers so that shining resulted in a sort of veneer.)

Surreptitiously altering the condition of the ball is like the ‘sticky bottle’ or ‘magic spanner’ in cycling, where a rider gets assistance from a team car under the guise of doing something else. There are circumstances where these things are considered okay and circumstances where they’re considered not okay. You do them at your own risk and if you cross the line, you just have to accept that everyone’s going to rip into you.

Verdict: Not the worst bit.

The rank incompetence

We don’t know whether it’s the worst aspect of this incident, but the Australians’ ball-tampering incompetence is certainly the funniest aspect. We’ll say that now. No real need to compare it the others.

Let’s first deal with the methodology. This is what Cameron Bancroft used on the ball.

Looks like sandpaper, doesn’t it? Looks pretty much exactly like sandpaper. That’s certainly what everyone instantly assumed.

But, no, it was not sandpaper. According to Bancroft: “We had a discussion during the break and I saw an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from rough patches on the wicket to change the ball condition.”

Cameron Bancroft did not bring sandpaper onto the field of play to use on the ball. What he did was infinitely stupider than that. What Cameron Bancroft did was bring some raw materials onto the field of play with which to manufacture some sandpaper and THEN he used it on the ball.

Compounding this, he added: “Obviously it didn’t work, the umpires didn’t see it change the way the ball was behaving or how it looked or anything like that.”

So to run through the whole thing: Australia went to incredibly great lengths to try and alter the condition of the ball by manufacturing homemade sandpaper in full view of about 100 cameras and then they used it in full view of about 100 cameras and it didn’t work.

As risk-reward goes, that is not a great ratio.

Verdict: Not the worst bit.

The cover-up

Footage of an incident of cheating has been played on the big screen at the ground and obviously also broadcast around the world. Darren Lehmann thinks he’s probably the only one who’s spotted it though so he gets a message to the player responsible and lets him know.

Bancroft sneaks the offending material into his pants.

Now no-one will ever know!

‘Yes, yes, it was definitely this completely different bit of material that I was using,’ he told the umpires.

After he later came clean, Steve Smith said the plan was hatched by “the leadership group” but also informed the press that he was “not naming names.”

Verdict: Pretty bad.

The hypocrisy

Australia have in recent years very much positioned themselves as the moral arbiters of the game. As a rule of thumb, everything they do is fine and anything anyone else does crosses the line.

Darren Lehmann, in particular, has been roaming the world like some sort of sporting morality consultant, delivering lectures on what is and isn’t acceptable in cricket. More than that, in fact – like a judge, handing out verdicts and recommending sentences.

The whole time he’s been doing this, he – and everyone else in the team – has been going on and on and on about how the team plays hard but fair. There are so many quotes making reference to ‘the line’ and Australia’s respect for it that we honestly can’t pick out a favourite.

Verdict: This is probably the worst bit. It’s like the Team Sky thing, if you’ve been following that story (here’s a breakdown of it if you haven’t). If you set yourselves up as whiter-than-white, as moral arbiters of the sport, you will be judged against that standard.

Let’s celebrate that magnificent Rabada v Warner thing without at any point expressing support for all the stuff that gave rise to it

Rabada and Warner (all images via Sky Sports video)

Here at King Cricket, we’re not at all in favour of unnecessary on-field aggro: fielders over-celebrating dismissals, bowlers getting right up in the batsman’s face and all that.


We are HUGELY in favour of adrenaline-fuelled cricket – particularly when it involves a true fast bowler and a batsman who comes across as maybe being a bit of an arsehole.

It is just such a tremendously watchable feature of cricket. In what is ostensibly a team sport, you have two guys who hate each other basically going head-to-head, the guy with the bat making the guy with the ball hate him more and more and more until finally there’s a moment of catharsis.

And you know what? Sometimes all that bad stuff that we totally don’t approve of actually helps give rise to this kind of thing.

So let’s entirely overlook the cause and instead celebrate the effect because David Warner and Kagiso Rabada had a thing today and it was very much amazing and fun.

Rabada began by hitting Warner on the arm. It was his second ball and already we had the physio on.

Strapping in place, Warner promptly popped Rabada for four next ball.

The ball after that was a leg-bye and he got off strike.

The next Rabada over, Warner was facing again. First ball he nearly chopped on and got a single. Back on strike, this is where things really went up a notch because he hit the final three balls of the over for four.

The first was a legitimate cover drive, the second was a definitely-going-after-this-guy-no-matter-what scythe thing and the third one was off his pads.

And it continued.

The first ball of Rabada’s next over was, as you might imagine, short.

It went for six.

We’re not sure exactly what you want to read into this, but Rabada’s next delivery was a no-ball.

That also went to the ropes.

So that’s Rabada v Warner, five boundaries on the bounce. What would you absolutely 100 per cent most definitely want to see happen at this point?

Just stop and think. Imagine that you know in advance that this is the last ball you’re going to see. Things aren’t going to build up any more that this. This is the finish. What do you want to see?

Cartwheeling stump! The finest sight in sport.

After that, Usman Khawaja walked out and everyone felt a bit deflated and a load of people switched off.

Honestly, this might just have been the most perfect passage of cricket there’s ever been.

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