Boos might be “water off a duck’s back”, as described by Steve Smith and David Warner, but the duo’s resolve will be tested at Lord’s on Tuesday. Expect the boo boys to go full throttle, because in the game’s oldest rivalry, home fans become the home team’s 12th man. And make no mistake, England captain Eoin Morgan is not going to do a Virat Kohli, if Smith and Warner are received with hostility. “Regaining trust takes a lot of time. Who knows how long it will take?” Morgan told BBC Sport, adding: “I don’t think I could do anything, or should do anything, to try to influence the fans to change their minds.”
A couple of weeks ago at The Oval, Kohli had asked the Indian fans not to boo Smith and applaud him instead. An England-Australia game is probably more acrimonious and for the first time after serving the bans, courtesy the sandpaper-gate, Smith and Warner will play against England in an international. Little wonder then that Jonny Bairstow, too, has sung the same tune. Bairstow opened with Warner for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL this term. But that appears to be history now.
“Australia asking fans not to boo David Warner and Steve Smith is strange – not so long ago they wanted to make Stuart Broad cry,” Bairstow wrote in his Telegraph (London) column. It was in reference to former Australia coach Darren Lehmann urging the Aussie fans to make the England fast bowler “cry” during the 2013-14 Ashes Down Under. The current Australia coach Justine Langer asked the fans not to boo the duo, as they have “paid a big price”.
Langer-Warne spar over Khawaja
Australia coach Justin Langer hasn’t taken too kindly to Shane Warne’s assessment of his team’s batting. The leggie had critiqued after the Bangladesh match—wherein Australia were at one juncture 238/1 in 38 overs on a belter—that Australia’s batting plans would come to hurt them against superior teams like India and England. “This very conservative approach by Aust is very odd, especially on a small ground with a super quick outfield & as the ball hasn’t spun or seamed. Leaving way too much for Maxwell, Stoinis and Carey to do. Only a wicket down, Aust should be going after the bowling big time!” he had tweeted.
Other cricket commentators shared Warne’s view as the innings neared the 40-over mark. Iconic Australian broadcaster Jim Maxwell told the BBC: “They’re not muscling it around the ground as you’d expect” while former England spinner Graeme Swann said the innings was “way too slow” and “old fashioned”. Warne had also vehemently called for benching Usman Khawaja, who he reckons bats too slowly.
Even after Australia had exploded and ended up 381 runs, Warne continued to be critical. “Awesome from Maxwell & a stunning 100 from Warner too. Khawaja doing great, but ridiculous he didn’t run. Why wasn’t this happening 20 overs ago? As I said in previous tweets, Aust has the firepower but has decided to play conservatively till the last 10 overs ! Why ?” he fumed.
However, Langer not only justified the approach but also had a dig at his former colleague Warne. “Didn’t we get 381? I guess it’s been a while since we made those many runs,” he began before quipping Warne: “It’s easy being a commentator!” Back in the glory days of Australia, they too weren’t the best of mates, with Warne once dubbing Langer as Steve Waugh’s ‘yes man’ while Langer, a devout Catholic, had blasted Warne’s flashy lifestyle and fitness. Even a couple of years ago, when Warne blasted Waugh, alleging that he was the most selfish player of his time, Langer had sprung to his former skipper’s defence. “Steve Waugh is without doubt … you talk about selfish, he’s probably one of the most selfless players I ever played with.” For all the verbal punches and counter-punches, Langer’s men need to walk the talk against England. Warne’s watching.
Fast and Friendly
In case someone is planning a buddy film – the genre that teams two male leads with contrasting characters but common goals – here is a casting suggestion and also working title. Fast and Friendly, starring the English pace pair of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer might well turn out to be a sleeper hit for the upcoming Ashes season. Wood, 29, grew up in a cold mining town north of England. Archer, 24, was born in sunny Barbados. Early in his career, Wood headed to Australia to learn and refine his skills.
He returned well in time to play for Durham. As for Archer he too left home and moved to England to improve. However, his half-British parentage and county success saw him give up his West Indies dream. The odd couple, paired by several twists of fate, bowl in the high 140kph but are very different — Wood is skiddy, Archer bouncy.
The two have also been involved in this one-up-pacemanship (another ‘bro flicks’ box ticked). Their banter is about — what else — Who bowls fast? Both have arguments, making this an inconclusive debate. In this World Cup, Archer has a higher average speed than his senior partner but Wood has bowled the fastest deliver — a 95.6mph scorcher. In his column on BBC website, Wood presented his case: “He may have bowled Soumya Sarkar with a delivery that hit the top of off stump and sent the ball all the way over the boundary without bouncing, but I pipped him on the speed gun. Jofra always stands next to me when I’m bowling, fielding at mid-off. He says that my speeds appear on the big screen, but his don’t. He thinks it’s a conspiracy, but I tell him it’s because he’s bowling so fast they can’t get a reading.” Archer’s reaction was dismissive: “Huh? No he didn’t. Only Woody’s speed came up on big screen. None of mine did, actually.” Way in 2003, during the World Cup in South Africa, the Pakistan team had a similar intra-team pace battle. Shoaib Akhtar wanted to show the senior pacers in the team — Wasim, Waqar and others – that he was the fastest. Akhtar blew away the debate with a 160 kph ball. Will Archer do an Akhtar in the Ashes game?
Warner Bros Gals
David Warner is having quite a World Cup, one which not many would have predicted after being away from international cricket for a year. With two hundreds from six games, the left-hander is sitting pretty as the second-highest run scorer in the tournament, as we speak, and coach Justin Langer and skipper Aaron Finch will expect their opener to raise his game at the business end of the tournament.
But Warner will have to deal with something significant on the personal front even as he prepares for the upcoming big games. His wife Candice is expecting their third daughter during the tournament, and has flown over to England. After the match against England on Tuesday, the Aussies face New Zealand on Saturday at Lord’s and Candice is due to be induced after that day-night game, also at Lord’s. With Australia’s next match, their final league fixture against already eliminated South Africa only a week later, at least Langer doesn’t expect to be without one of his key players.
“He won’t miss a match,” he said. “That’s why Candice has been over. It’s worked really well. She’s going to be in hospital at the time, so hopefully he doesn’t miss a match. But we’re all over that.
“I don’t like surprises, I wasn’t just going to turn up and go, ‘oh, she might have a baby, we might miss Davey for the semi-final’. That’s what we try to do, always get win-win situations. We work together and we’ll make sure it works out for everyone. Hopefully it will work out okay.”