It's no more than a sprinkling of controversy. But what does it say about Alastair Cook’s captaincy?

With their late-night antics, the England cricket team have made the mistake of handing the moral high ground to Australia
  • @davidhepworth

The tweet from England wicketkeeper Matt Prior read, “Best moment of the ashes!!!” The picture that accompanied it was not of Jimmy Anderson bowling Michael Clarke at Trent Bridge or Kevin Pietersen’s bowel-loosening charge at the Australian bowling on the last day.

Instead it was a picture of the England team sitting cross-legged, beers in hand, in a circle on the Oval outfield late on Sunday evening, illuminated only by the spill from the hospitality boxes. They look for all the world like a school team hiding from sir on a cricket tour. It’s faintly pathetic.

Whether this was before or after some players decided that they couldn’t port their distended bladders all the way back to the dressing room and relieve themselves in the usual way, we do not know. Instead they decided they should p**s on the wicket – 22 yards of turf which, to be fair, had done neither bowlers nor “batters”, in the modern parlance, any favours over the previous five days. This ancient rite will probably have been accompanied by the “Way-he!” noise with which groups of men have traditionally soundtracked sequences of choreographed urination.

In itself this is not the most reprehensible thing they could have done. It had the irritating side effect of allowing the Australian cricket establishment and media back on to the moral high ground and I’d like to think that Andy Flower, the England coach, would administer a quiet hint to Alastair Cook that it would be best not to be the kind of captain in whose company the team feel quite so relaxed. Then again it’s to be hoped the incident doesn’t result in an enquiry at the highest level or one of those apologetic press conferences.

The England team’s night of revelry – which climaxed with them attempting to flag down buses and taxis to get back to their Tower Bridge hotel while still in their whites – suggests a bunch of wealthy, over-entitled sixth formers who can’t decide on which side of the red rope they want to live their lives.

Briefly away from the otherwise all-seeing eye of social media, they made up the deficiency by taking their own pictures and posting them on Twitter, thus invading their own privacy. It must have occurred to at least some of the Midnight Tinklers that the story of their nocturnal irrigation would get out. Maybe they secretly wanted it to.

On the same evening I heard on the radio that the England cricket team currently spend 240 nights a year in hotels. That alone would be enough to make them as stir crazy as Keith Moon was in the early 1970s. The wild man of The Who started off urinating on a concrete slab for the cover of Who’s Next and graduated to blowing up lavatories. On that measure the England Cricket Board, which keeps Cook & co on the road as if they were Status Quo with pads, has got off pretty lightly so far.