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Graceless at Lord’s: The Class Goons Strike Back

What are the English other than their excruciatingly worn class, kitted out with a code of manners revocable at an instant? A streak of traditional Englishness, as A. A. Gill wrote, stresses bullying. It made them great in the hope of making others small. A towering creature like Charles James Fox may well have added his worth to the abolition of slavery, but he was an inveterate, stinking bully. And there was much of this recently in the normally staid atmosphere at the so-called home of cricket, a game invented to preserve an Englishman’s sense of providence and eternity.

The occasion was the Second Test Match between the oldest of cricket rivals – England and Australia. As is customary, both teams make their way through what is known as the Long Room, an antiquated structure featuring portraits of the various flannel dressed figures that matter to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). Importantly, the teams doing combat go through the room, to be witnessed like dressed gladiators before battle. And close do these figures come to the members, who clap, encourage and tease as well as they might. Drinks, as usual, flow as the performance takes place.

But something happened on the field that was supposedly not to take place. In the final day’s session, with England making an ultimately doomed assault in an otherwise glorious run chase, Johnny Bairstow was stumped by Australia’s wicket keeper Alex Carey. The stumping did not breach any of the game’s rules; in truth, it was very much within them.

The English expressed lofty, even outraged disagreement. Bairstow, believing the ball dead and the over concluded (for those unfamiliar with this most eccentric, at sometimes soporific of games, an over is a phase of play featuring six deliveries). An opportunistic Carey thought otherwise, throwing the ball at the stumps. The regulation in question, Law 20.1.2, reads as follows: “The ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batters at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play.” (Read on reader, read on.)

The English team captain, Ben Stokes, every bit the Celtic, bat savaging berserker, whose own performance should be immortalised, got distracted. He moralised about what could only have been described as Bairstow’s lack of awareness, like a dodo caught off-guard: he would not have wanted to achieve victory “in that manner”. The English coach, Brendon McCullum, spoke on Bairstow’s befuddled behalf by insisting that, in his view, the umpires had declared the over finished. (They had not.) In the famed Long Room, the Australian team faced braying and baying and jostling from the gin-filled MCC members, leading to the suspension of a mere three members.

Far from the oxidised memories of these good members, who spend decades hoping to be admitted to the club, was the sharp, unforgiving conduct of England’s own hero, WG Grace, who ran out Australia’s Sammy Jones in the 1882 Oval Test match for straying from his crease. Like Bairstow, Jones had acted under a mistaken belief that the ball was dead. “I taught the lad a lesson,” Grace duly boasted. For these English, history happened to another version of themselves.

Things came to a pretty pass, however, when the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, a multimillionaire merchant banker with an even wealthier wife, a rule breaker himself when Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding pandemic regulations, and a keen proponent of turning back boats and repelling asylum seekers, weighed in. “The prime minister agrees with Ben Stokes,” stated his spokesman. “He said he simply wouldn’t want to win a game in the manner Australia did.”

Such magnificently discordant conduct did not pass unnoticed in The Guardian. Here was a man, Marina Hyde caustically chided, “whose wife’s tax affairs were for so long within the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit of it.” Nor had Sunak bothered to turn up to a vote on the standards committee’s report on former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Partygate deceptions on holding gatherings that breached both the spirit and the letter of pandemic restrictions. “Is true leadership having a view on a stumping but not on whether it’s actually bad to lie to parliament? It is now.”

The broader reaction to the Bairstow stumping, from the sozzled, liver cured MCC members to the opportunistic, politically beleaguered Sunak, was also astonishing given the England and Wales Cricket Board own savage report instancing cases of racism, sexism, elitism and class prejudices.

Hardly cricket, you might say, made even starker by the treatment offered Australia’s own Pakistan-born batsman, Usman Khawaja. For his part, Khawaja took to a stoic mode, one that would have made many a cricketing Oxbridge figure proud. “The [Lord’s] crowd is great,” he told the Nine channel, “particularly the members are great, (but) some of the stuff coming out of the members’ mouths was really disappointing.”

The Australian reaction should not have surprised, and some of it came from well cured terrain, encyclopaedically trained to England’s cricketing deficiencies. “If there’s a certain percentage of yahoos around then there’s a certain percentage of yahoos at Lord’s,” growled former Australian cricket captain, Ian Chappell. “Have they forgotten this is the same mob who had a fight during my brother’s centenary Test at Lord’s?”

Chappell has always been one of the game’s great cutting distillers, filtering the clogging cloaca to give us that most glorious clear image about the sporting figures he admires or detests. “I understand where Jonny Bairstow is coming from and I applaud what he’s trying to do, he’s trying to live up to the etiquette of the game which is when the bowler is ready to bowl, you’ve got to be ready to face up.” On this occasion, silly Bairstow did not do things “sensibly”.

In Australia, the conduct of the MCC members, and the English supporters more broadly, became a source of interest for the government. Might this ignite the impetus for Australia to become a republic? Maybe. But for just that rarest of moments, the Australian men’s cricket team, not always famed for their sportsmanlike disposition, could gaze at England’s runny complaints from the summit, and chortle about having a better understanding of the laws set by, of all bodies, the MCC itself.


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  1. Phil Pryor

    Back again, and here is an article embracing the wide ranges of human behaviour, even in a sport like cricket, which has an old history, sugar to shit, as with all social observations. Rigging, betting, cheating, nobbling, tampering, bribing, etc., are all a feature of this. The Great Cheat, Dr. Grace, trumpeted his regular offences against any imaginable spirit of the game, which to him meant supremacist, class-based, oppressive, domineering, rule ignoring attitudes. J W H T Douglas cultivated a reinforced sharpened thumbnail, to attack seams and alter the ball’s trajectory, Modern variations of that were perfected by Pakistanis like Wasim and copied in other places. Ball tampering was clear in 2005 when S Jones and A Flintoff mad the ball wobble about in an un-aerodynamic way of purity. The Sth. African captain in charge whem S Smith was “caught” for ball tampering, had been charged and found guilty TWICE before of similar tampering offences. K Miller learnt about using hair cream to retain shine from an old bald pommy who had his cap full of it. And, has the incompetent duty dodger Sunak not heard of Mankad? And, do the pommy yabberers remember reading of Jardine, who’s spirit of cricket attitude reflected murderous assault as the core. Only when West Indies bowlers did it to the English soon after, and Martindale broke Wally Hammond’s jaw, did the officials of the M C C see the “light” about unsporting behaviour. Finally, Starc took a catch, quite fair, but, a reserve umpire translated the rules (which is why they get paid for duty) and a not out was given.., umpire’s decision interpreting the rules.., and Bairstow who does it all the time, was given out, umpire’s decision, interpreting the rules. Underarm bowling has now gone, unlimited short fast bowling to a set intimidatory field has gone, BUT, the desire to win by a cheating advantage remains. Note that in the recent test, the English bowled short, short short as it suited their negativity.., so much for Bazball. Mc Cullum, the N Z English coach is known to have done similar when he kept wickets long ago. Ho effing Ho. Can’t wait to hear the Yorkshire crowd fuelled by pies, beer, hypocrisy, memory loss and utter post-imperial raving.

  2. Harry Lime

    Never mind cricket, the poms have been cheating, chiselling,dispossessing entire countries,nay,hemispheres out of their lands, resources and labor for centuries…but that’s DIFFERENT.The rug’s been slipping under ‘Rule Brittania’ for a hundred or more years,and with Brexit they’ve finally managed to pull the rug out from under themselves,to teach themselves a lesson no doubt.And they get their smalls in a knot over a minor incident in a strange game.Priorities,priorities.

  3. Ross

    You might suspect the administrator’s could not believe their luck, a massive controversy to add fuel to the next game with the Ashes on the line. England must win, plus the next two, Australia only needs a draw to retain the urn. What more could a cricket administrator ask for.
    As for the “cheap” 25 pound price of the second test last day ticket, the spectators got one of the best days entertainment cricket could offer, confected outrage thrown in for free.
    Plus think of the field day the media have had and have they held back, not a chance.
    If Pat Cummins had rescinded the appeal and England had won how would the cockroaches in our third rate mainstream media have responded. “Well done that man, stout yeoman, fine sportsmanship”, hardly, they would have ripped into him like a pack of rabid jackals.
    So the scoreboard prior to the crucial 3rd test, Cheating Bastards – 2, Whinging Poms – nil.

    As if that wasn’t enough, the names of the suspended MCC members;

    Humphrey Wigbert-Porter
    Quinten Breckenridge

  4. Clakka

    Ha ha ha ha ha …. and the poms continue to go down the gurgler, blaming and hating everyone else whilst ripping themselves and their country to shreds via bombastic stupidity and writs of hypocrisy. One shouldn’t laugh, but the irony is fabulous.

    Bring on the Oz republic.

  5. JulianP

    Aye, there’s nowt like memory loss (plus Gin) to assist confected outrage.
    For a relevant historical perspective, check out this link:

    Another great example of English hypocrisy

  6. leefe

    Hell hath no hypocrisy like an English team defeated.

    Bairstow had tried the same manouevre twice before in the same match – once against Warner and once against Labuschagne. The difference between those and his own dismissal being that a) he missed the stumps and b) the batters made sure they were within their ground until the ball was clearly dead.
    He also tried it against Travis Head at Edgbaston and, when asked after the game if he would have claimed the wicket if he had hit, he was adamant that he would have.
    Bairstow needs to remember that, while the keeper’s actions contribute a great deal to the dead/alive status of the ball after a delivery passes tthe bat, that only applies to the keeper of the fielding team. When you’re batting, you don’t get to unilaterally decide when a ball is dead or when an over is over. That sort of stupid behaviour is schoolkid stuff, though most schoolkids learn their very first time at bat that you always make sure you’re in your ground until a call has been made and that you always watch the ball until it’s on its way back to the bowler.

    As for Stokes … he was on the ground during each of Bairstow’s three attempts to do the same thing to Australian players, so he was well aware that it was an option. If he’s so certain that he would never have allowed such a dismissal to stand, why didn’t he tell Bairstow to stop trying it? Also, given that he was at the other end when Bairstow went for his brainfade dickhead wander, he should have seen Carey take the ball and lob it at the stumps, so why didn’t he yell at his partner to get back?

    McCullum also needs to pull his head in, given that he did something similar, but even worse, to Murali, stumping him and insisting on claiming the dismissal after MM had gone down the pitch to congratulate his batting partner on reaching his century. As for the Pommie fans who insist that McCullum’s slate was cleared by his subsequent apology, well, if, in ten years time (because that’s how long it took McCullum), Pat Cummins apologises to Bairstow and says he regrets not rescinding the appeal, I expect all those fans to be equally passionate and vociferous in their support and appreciation of Cummins. And when I say I expect it, I mean that I don’t, because … well, see my opening remark.

  7. New England Cocky

    The sooner Australia removes gg David Hurley and his fascination with English rowing trophies, the sooner there may be an explanation of the about $18 MILLION paid to some Pom to provide ”leadership training” to young Australians. Perhaps Hurley has overlooked the ”wonderful” leadership from English officers at ANZAC Cove, on the Western Front in WWI and at Singapore in 1942.
    Harry Lime & Clakka have the correct idea ….. bring on the Australian Republic with an Australian borne head of State.
    Whingers never win cricket.

  8. New England Cocky

    I didn’t know that Trumpery Junior was part of the MCC Whingers Team …..

    ”Geez, Donald Trump Jr is a bit of sore loser. His dad lost an election fair and square — but he says it was stolen. Now he’s trying to blame the Australian government for his poor ticket sales and cancelled tour”.
    Clare O’Neil Criclkey.worm 090723

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