ADELAIDE (Reuters) – England captain Joe Root’s impatience to resume hostilities with Australia at Adelaide Oval after a week of off-field distractions was palpable on the eve of the first day-night Ashes test on Friday.
While his Australian counterpart Steve Smith basked in the confidence that comes from scoring an unbeaten 141 to lead your side to a 10-wicket victory, Root fielded questions about Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow’s “headbutt” and Moeen Ali’s finger.
After suggesting that England would use as motivation Smith’s uncontrollable laughter during the post-match press conference at the Gabba on Monday, he quickly added that he would prefer people were talking about cricket.
“It’s quite an insignificant part of what is an important series. The cricket is what should be the main focal part of what we are about,” Root said.
“Our responsibility as players is to make sure that for the rest of the series, that is the stuff that is spoken about, what we do on the field.”
Root also wanted to “move on” from the Stokes saga, as much as he was excited by the prospect of the suspended all-rounder getting back out on a cricket pitch in New Zealand.
Much as he wanted to move on, though, the questions kept returning to the sledging of players on the field, which Root said he was all in favour of, as long as limits were respected.
“There are certain things that people know they shouldn’t say on the field,” he said. “I think it’s important that both sides, not just one side, get that right and don’t overstep.”
Smith was quite happy to confirm that his laughter at the Gabba had not been mockery at England’s predicament, merely at Cameron Bancroft’s laconic explanation of how Bairstow had greeted him with a “headbutt” in a Perth bar.
Smith also fired back at James Anderson’s assertion that the Australians were like “bullies” with their “sledging”, suggesting the England quick was in a league of his own when it came to the art.
The Australians have been quite clear that they will continue with their “chirping” at the English and while Smith agreed there was a “line” that should not be crossed, he was not about to define where it lay.
“I think the umpires and the match referees are there to determine that,” he said. “From my point of view it’s about playing good, hard cricket and I think we did that at the Gabba and I think we’ll continue to do that throughout the series.”
Smith was equally ebullient when asked about English attempts to frustrate him at the crease by limiting his scoring as they seek to level up the series at 1-1.
“That’s cool. I‘m happy with that,” he smiled. “I love batting, I‘m happy to stay out there batting as long as I can to be perfectly honest. If it has to take me 300 balls to get a hundred then it will take me 300 balls.”
Adelaide, with the prospect of pink ball movement under the lights, has long been touted as England’s best chance of a test win in the series but Root knows that, as his team’s best batsman, he will need to fire along with his bowlers.
“I’ve just got to do whatever I can to win games of cricket in the next four games because personally this would be the biggest achievement of my career so far,” he said.
“The best way of me achieving that is to go out and score heavily, big runs. It’s as simple as that.”
Editing by John O’Brien