2:19 AM ET
A ruthless Australia will keep pressing for every possible advantage over England by maintaining a level of on-field hostility that Pete Handscomb has no qualms in describing as “brutal”.
The targeting of Jonny Bairstow with reminders of his ill-advised headbutt of Cameron Bancroft in a Perth bar on the first night of England’s tour has now passed into Ashes folklore, and Handscomb rated it among the “smartest” use of verbals he had seen in the game. It was Handscomb who instigated the attack on Bairstow at a pivotal moment of the Gabba Test, by asking whether he had headbutted Bancroft, before others, including David Warner, joined in.
“I was just asking him a question, just wanted to get the facts before anything happened,” Handscomb said with a grin on Thursday. “We’ve just got to play it by ear and see what happens. It’s a bit of a spur of the moment thing. It’s how we’re feeling depending on what’s happening in the game and you’ve got to try and pick your right moments.
“As far as sledging goes it was probably some of the smartest stuff we’ve ever come up with. Generally it’s just what the Aussie way is, it’s pretty brutal but no, it was good to see that worked. It’s a part of the game. It has been for a long time and it will continue to be. If we can keep being smart with our sledges then if it opens up a weakness we’ll be pretty happy with it.
“During Shield cricket we come pretty hard at each other even though we are team-mates in the Australian team. It’s something we’re used to and something we do, but we know it’s on the field. Once it’s off the field, relaxed, do whatever, but we’re trying our hardest to win games for this country and if that’s going to give us a slight edge, well we’re going to do it.”
Australia have made no secret of deliberately targeting Bairstow as a potential point of English weakness, something that they also did when he was included in the team as wicketkeeper in place of Matt Prior in 2013-14. Handscomb emphasised that attempts to distract opponents from their own plans and zones of concentration would continue to be effective, provided they were allied, as was the case in Brisbane, with disciplined and sustained efforts with the ball and in the field.
“It doesn’t work that often, I wouldn’t have thought,” Handscomb said when asked how often he had seen an episode of sledging reap the sorts of rewards seen in Brisbane. “It’s generally good bowling or good catching that gets guys out. But if you can get that 1% edge over an opposition, you’d be silly not to.”
Steven Smith exchanged some verbal volleys with Jake Ball Getty Images
Personified by the prickly James Anderson, England have also been known to sledge liberally in the past, and he said the tourists were expecting more of the same in Adelaide. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. When someone is trying to get under my skin in all walks of life it makes me more determined to succeed,” Anderson said. “So from a personal point of view that excites me and will drive me on to do the best I can with bat and ball. From our point of view we know what they are going to come up with – they will go hard at us and we knew that from day one.
“They were fairly quiet for the first few days when we were doing well. It was only on the fourth day when they became more vocal, now they are 1-0 up they are going to keep coming at us. But it is up to us individually and as a group to stick together and know that we are not just here to roll over.”
For Handscomb, the verbals are likely to be turned against him provided Anderson can again find a way to pin him on the crease for an lbw, as was the case in the first innings in Brisbane. Nevertheless, Handscomb is committed to maintaining his unorthodox approach – backing himself to make plenty of runs despite opening himself up to more bowled and lbw dismissals than most.
“I have batted deep in my crease for three years, I am not really that concerned. I batted deep last year and managed to hit balls on the stumps and made lots of runs,” Handscomb said. “Kyle Abbott was pretty good, Kagiso Rabada, good players, I am not concerned obviously I have got my plans, I just need to hit the ball, it’s as simple as that.
“I knew way before [that England would attack his stumps], I know I get out lbw and bowled, that’s why I have tried to change a few things with my technique, that’s part of it, bat deep and all that to give myself more time, I knew the plans well before [Brisbane].”
Confidence abounds in Australia’s squad after the Brisbane result, but vastly different conditions likely to be offered up by the day-night Ashes Test gave Handscomb reason to be cautious about what is about to unfold. “We are not looking too far ahead, we understand if we come out and play the game we want to, control our controllables, we come away with a 2-0 lead here,” Handscomb said.
“I suppose complacency can set in, but that’s something we are obviously going to not try and do. We understand we have had a good game in Brisbane, but that’s gone now it’s completely different conditions as well, being a day-night test, pink ball, but we have got to make sure we do things right by our own team and play our own game.”
Via:: Cricket – ESPN