James Lawton: Gamesmanship is just not cricket, no matter which sport is being played

Anderson, who had been in heroic mode, seemed almost as offended as Ponting

As if the Australians hadn't scored enough moral victories in the first Test they now have a picture to remind them. It is worth rather more than a thousand words of the most wounding invective.

It shows their captain, Ricky Ponting, who is not a tall man, looking down – in every sense – as England's 12th man Bilal Shafayat offers a new batting glove to the heroic tail-ender James Anderson.

Twice Shafayat was sent on to the field in time-wasting exercises so transparent, so pathetic, it was a relief to everyone, even the most committed England fan, surely, when he was shooed away by the umpires as though he was a bothersome street urchin.

On one of his trips he was accompanied by physiotherapist Steve McCaig, his red shirt billowing in the evening breeze and a look on his face that seemed to plead for some little corner of Wales to open beneath his feet.

Later, it was a small piece of reassurance to see that England captain Andrew Strauss was almost swallowed up in embarrassment when the issue was raised. He pleaded the confusion of the moment.

In the picture, however, Ponting's eyes show the contempt of the ages.

He expressed it eventually with an example of Australian understatement that may never be surpassed in the English language. Ponting thought it was "pretty ordinary" behaviour.

Certainly, it was in keeping with something that two years ago seemed to represent arguably the most inept piece of gamesmanship ever to be inflicted on a game whose very name is supposed to be tantamount to saying fair play. Remember that misadventure at Trent Bridge, when England threw jelly babies down on the wicket and so inflamed the Indian bowler Zaheer Khan he promptly produced one of the greatest bursts of swing bowling ever seen?

We know that gamesmanship, to give it the most benign description, has been rife in cricket since well before the England captain Douglas Jardine decided that the only way to beat Australia was to make a target of Don Bradman's body. The consequence of that was a possible break-up of the British Empire. No doubt the repercussions are less grave after the incidents at Sophia Gardens but England need to look at one of them very carefully.

It is that they snatched from the extraordinary salvage work of Paul Collingwood, Anderson and Monty Panesar the precise opposite of the feel-good factor. It was the feel petty-and-inadequate factor. It was an admission they were in desperate need of help by any means they could muster. Anderson, who had been in heroic mode for some time, understandably seemed almost as offended as Ponting.

There is no cure for gamesmanship – and no serious hope that it will ever disappear. When tennis player Andy Murray was accused of it by the Latvian Ernests Gulbis at Wimbledon he reacted with something suspiciously like righteous indignation and a degree of philosophy, saying, "Gamesmanship is a form of cheating. It's bending the rules to gain an advantage. It's a bit like diving in football. It does go on and certain players do it. Some do it, some don't. I'm one of the guys in tennis who doesn't do it. I just play to win the best way I can."

When Michael Owen appeared to dive and win a vital penalty in a qualifying match against Slovakia he was widely seen as doing something "professional" on behalf of the country. When Diego Maradona punched the ball into England's net in the Azteca Stadium he was pretty much branded the Antichrist. So it goes.

When Zinedine Zidane blighted a fantastic, romantic climax to his career by head-butting the chest of Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final most of the opprobrium was directed at his victim for his goading of the hero with sexual innuendos directed at his sister. The fact that Zidane had been sent off more times than Roy Keane was somewhat lost.

Yes, of course, gamesmanship, cheating, is endemic to professional sport. Has a pitcher applied graphite or Vaseline to the ball; has the slugger put cork into his bat and steroids into his body?

No doubt it is a bit late in the day to get too exercised over the capers in Cardiff. There is, though, another problem. It is the effect of what England tried to do, and the way they attempted it. It was – as we saw on the face of Ponting – inspiring of contempt. It was a confession of inadequacy that England will do well to shake away over the next four Tests.

In Cardiff the term "test" had never been more relevant to the action. The Aussies, but for that last failure to break through the Rorke's Drift of England's tail, had passed most of their examination. England had failed in all but the defiance of Collingwood, Anderson and Panesar, which meant that a draw was a result beyond any reasonable expectations.

Yet in the end it wasn't quite as neat as that. There was that picture of Ponting, already arguably the most committed man in all of sport for the next few weeks, with an expression that said that any previous determination had, at that moment, been precisely doubled.

Gamesmanship is supposed to give you an edge, however dubiously. It is not supposed to guarantee your opponents are as merciless as ravaging wolves.

Terry should stop the kissing game

The controversy over Mr Chelsea's possible move to Manchester City is inevitable and complicated.

That John Terry is already on fantasy wages is really beside the point. In a free market and a free country everyone is entitled to seek the best possible terms. Still, there are a couple of points that should be borne in mind, even by someone employed as a professional footballer.

One is that Terry is currently on a three-year contract that most citizens would be inclined to fondle rather than reject at least once every waking hour.

The other is that, should he remain at Stamford Bridge, he might think seriously about his options the next time he feels some overwhelming urge to express his fabled loyalty to the club of his life. Kissing the shirt, for example, is surely no longer the wise choice. It might just smack, more vividly than ever before, of a certain degree of insincerity.

Welsh sporting excellence demands recognition

It should have been no surprise that Cardiff, having done such a splendid job of hosting the Cup final in those years when building the new Wembley seemed to impinge on eternity, proved equally adept at staging an Ashes Test match.

The wicket, it is true, was not exactly a cracker, but then how many bowlers' hearts have they buried at The Oval?

A particular delight of Welsh sport is the intimate relationship it has with its greatest figures. Excessively deferential it is not. However, a hero is a hero even if he can walk among his people relatively unmolested.

One reminder of this is the story of when Mel Charles, brother of the great John, returned from impressive duty with the Welsh team which reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, where the injury-hampered campaign was ended only by a single goal from Brazil. As he passed through the station in Swansea, the ticket collector called out, "Hi, Mel, haven't seen you for a while, been on holiday?"

Such easy familiarity does not, though, quell the dismay that so regularly greets the lack of any serious recognition of Welsh sporting prowess in all the honours lists since the knight of Sir Harry Llewellyn, third baronet, who won gold in the Helsinki Olympics of 1952 on the back of Foxhunter.

The wound was opened again recently when cyclist Sir Chris Hoy received an almost instant dubbing after his success in Beijing.

Where, the Welsh want to know, were the knighthoods for Barry John, conqueror of the All Blacks in 1971 and the brilliant Lions coach, Carwyn James, or the greatest of scrum-halves, Gareth Edwards, or the dynamic fly-half, and distinguished broadcaster, Cliff Morgan, or Mel's big brother John, in the opinion of some good judges the most complete footballer ever bred in these islands?

The more English fans are drawn to Cardiff, the can-do city of British sport, the more they can expect the question. But then what can they say? It beats me.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk