England’s fans target Australia with sandpapers, masks in Ashes first Testhttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/ashes-england-australias-handshake-crowd-hostility-david-warner-steve-smith-5870290/

England’s fans target Australia with sandpapers, masks in Ashes first Test

England's fans weren't going to make life easy for Australia, and they came prepared with sandpaper and masks of Steve Smith.

Australia skipper Tim Paine at the toss before the 1st Ashes Test at Edgbaston on Thursday (AP Photo)

The Ashes got off to a cracking start at Edgbaston on Thursday, with a dramatic opening passage of play seeing umpires making mistakes, teams missing reviews, crowds dressed in medieval gear waving sandpapers and some loud booing.

Given the talk of the reception anticipated for Australia’s ‘Sandpapergate trio’ of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft – all three of whom have been reunited in international cricket for the first time in this Test – the build-up to this year’s Ashes series has been like a diplomatic parley.

On Day 1, after the initial nerves had calmed down, one thing became increasingly clear – England were going to make life as hard as possible for the visitors.

No handshakes before game

There were no handshakes as Australia won the toss and elected to bat. Australia captain Tim Paine had implemented a pre-game football-style handshake between the teams when he took over the reins last year following former skipper Steve Smith’s suspension. However, as was reported by the British media in the run-up to the match, England skipper Joe Root was not so keen on the idea.

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David Warner and Cameron Bancroft walk out to open the innings for Australia in the first Ashes Test (Reuters Photo)

It was reported that Root had been ‘riled up’ by seeing a pre-match handshake between the two teams mentioned in the official programme handed out to the captains on Wednesday.

Eoin Morgan had agreed to such a tradition before an ODI series between the teams last year, and so Root was not consulted before including the handshake in the programme, reported The Guardian. However, as it turned out when the two teams walked out to take the field Thursday, Root’s squad had decided they would not shake hands.

Masks, sandpaper and boos

Then when the match started, Warner and Bancroft walked out to loud boos.

The crowd was involved with every ball in the first hour of the match, which saw Warner being dismissed.

He was adjudged LBW off the last ball of the fourth over by Stuart Broad for just 2 runs. And as the Australian opener walked off the ground, an entire section of the English fans at the Birmingham stadium stood up to wave sandpapers at him.

The Edgbaston crowd react to David Warner’s dismissal (Reuters Photo)

Steve Smith, who walked out at No.4, was also subject to merciless treatment. Masks of his face, from when he publicly broke down at the press conference, came out in the stands.

It didn’t help that Australia lost a spate of wickets after opting to bat first on Day 1.