Alastair Cook plans to combat another hostile reception for his England team in the second Ashes Test by taking the Australian crowd out of the equation.
“You let your cricket do the talking,” Cook said Wednesday, on the eve of the match at a new-look Adelaide Oval.
“Last time we had the same hostile environment when we got here, but toward the end of the series we played some really good cricket and that hostility changed because everyone was very respectful of the way we played.”
England is on a three-series roll in the Ashes, having won at home in 2009, in Australia in 2010-11 and finishing off a 3-0 win at home in August.
The impatience of Australian fans for a victory was evident during the first Test in Brisbane, with the level of vitriol directed toward the touring team even higher than the normal Ashes intensity.
Former England player Derek Pringle wrote a newspaper column claiming England officials were so perturbed by the fans’ behaviour that they raised questions over the Gabba’s future as an Ashes venue.
“Senior members of the England and Wales Cricket Board at the match were so astounded by the behaviour of Australia’s supporters … that representations have been made to Cricket Australia about the possibility of not playing there on future tours,” he wrote for London’s Telegraph.
“England admit to sledging opponents but there was an intensity about the Brisbane Test, possibly whipped up by the boorish crowd,” that unsettled players, officials and ex-players.
The prospects of dropping the Gabba as an Ashes venue are extremely remote, with Australia unbeaten there in 25 years.
The 381-run thumping Cook’s team got from Australia in the series opener was accompanied by some angry exchanges between batsmen and fielders and “sledging” has been among the most frequently uttered words in the 10 days of Ashes discussion since.
“In that last game we didn’t do ourselves justice and they got on top and that’s what home supporters do when you get on top,” Cook said.
We know how important it is to let the skills out in the middle do the talking and everything else will take care of itself.
“We knew that coming into this series and a few of us have played a lot of cricket over here. We know how important it is to let the skills out in the middle do the talking and everything else will take care of itself.”
Players and officials were criticised for letting the banter go too far in Brisbane. Australia captain Michael Clarke was fined in the wake of the match, but only really because he used an expletive that was heard on the TV broadcast.
Clarke said he accepted and paid the fine, and vowed his Australians would continue to play tough cricket within the rules.
Cook was expecting plenty more chatter on and off the field, but added: “it’s important that both sides recognise that a couple of scenes in that last Test weren’t great for the game of cricket.
“People want to see real tough cricket, that’s what they enjoy, especially between England and Australia, but there’s got to be a boundary that we don’t cross,” he said.
“Maybe last week we let emotion get ahead of ourselves a little bit on some occasions and it got a little bit ugly.
(Clarke) and I have a responsibility as captains of both sides to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Australia batsman David Warner admitted he went too far by using a post-play news conference to pounce on Jonathan Trott’s batting failures in Brisbane.
Trott quit the tour after the match, returning to England with stress-related issues. England coach Andy Flower said Warner’s comments were not a catalyst for Trott’s departure, but was still critical of the way the Australian opener took the sledging off the pitch.
Australia’s leaders have said Trott’s departure will be off limits for any taunts or banter, but that won’t stop them targeting any other perceived weaknesses in the visiting team. Veteran England bowler Jimmy Anderson said he plays by the same rules, as a giver and receiver of sledging.
There was talk of a truce in the sledging, a suggestion rejected instantly by Australia coach Darren Lehmann, and Cook is certain the verbal warfare will continue because both teams know it can unsettle a rival.
“Anyone who says they haven’t been affected by sledging is lying,” he said.
“Something will always be said or done that will distract you for that split second and you’ll listen to it, but the skill of it is how you handle the next ball.”