On the Front Foot: Sledging row may be start of slippery slope to all-out war

  • @stephenbrenkley

There has been a sledging row.Or at least there has been some sledging to which Australia took exception (poor lambs) and the watching media, in search of a story, were only too prepared to sense the ingredients of a full-blown, old-fashioned bust-up. Next thing you know, cables will be exchanged and diplomatic relations will break down.

What actually happened nobody knows because the protagonists ain't saying, but suffice to say it is the sort of spat which Douglas Jardine and Ray Illingworth might have had before breakfast. It seems there was an altercation on the first day of the Second Test at Adelaide, between Jimmy Anderson and Brad Haddin. At the close, after England had faced one over, first Haddin and then Ricky Ponting upbraided the England captain, Andrew Strauss.

England dismissed the episode as inconsequential. They are playing an extremely cute game. On the one hand, they decline every invitation to comment on the opposition. Their only concern, says every player, is England. On other hand, it is clear they are letting the opposition know of their presence. Anderson is perpetually growling and on the batsman's case and Matt Prior, the wicketkeeper, is not noticeably quiet. It is part of the overall strategy: act as models of decorum where the opposition are concerned off the field, let 'em have it on it. It may be remembered that at Adelaide four years ago, Paul Collingwood sledged Shane Warne, who responded by compiling a significant innings of 43. But Collingwood was far from contrite and later confided that he wished he had upped the ante. There will be no quietening down from England this time. Before long there might even be a proper row. Somebody will say, as the Australia captain, Bill Woodfull, did to the England manager, Pelham Warner, at Adelaide at the height of Bodyline in 1933: "There are two sides out there and one of them is trying to play cricket and one isn't." Now that would be a story.

No ducking it, Ricky

Ricky Ponting is, astonishingly, the second Australia captain to be dismissed first ball in his 150th Test match. The first was Steve Waugh, out for a golden duck to Saqlain Mushtaq in a Test which his team won by an innings and 98 runs. Ponting's dismissal on the first day in Adelaide was his fifth golden duck. No England player has been dismissed for nought or any other score in his 150th Test match because none has played that many.

Trott blew it once

There may or may not be a second chance for Jonathan Trott to become the first England player to score hundreds in his first three Ashes matches. He fell 22 short yesterday. Only Greg Blewett of Australia has scored centuries in his first three Ashes matches, though Benedict Bermange, Sky's indefatigable scorer, reminds us that Herbert Sutcliffe of England scored three hundreds in his first two matches. Sutcliffe began his career against Australia with scores of 59, 115, 176 and 127. Trott's career average is now 60.74, a hundredth of a run better than Sutcliffe's 60.73. So far, of course.

Dress to impress

The Adelaide Test is much more than a sporting occasion – it is a social event. South Australians do posh very well, although these matters are relative. Their idea of a dress code in the members' area is no T-shirts and no flip-flops. MCC be warned.