ENGLAND yesterday attempted to move on from the furore over their Ashes celebrations after issuing a team apology following allegations they urinated on the Kia Oval pitch.
While the statement did not specifically refer to any of the players’ late-night toilet habits, after confirming a 3-0 series win on Sunday, apologies were made for a “simple error of judgment”.
Stuart Broad, one of those alleged to have been involved, fronted the media at lunchtime, for the first time since the incident, ostensibly to preview today’s opening NatWest Twenty20 international against Australia at the Ageas Bowl.
The 27-year-old was, however, primarily tasked with fielding questions over his own controversial Ashes campaign which is set to cast him as the pantomime villain Down Under this winter. And while he was content to talk about the prospect of being followed by “rock star” security in the return series, the antics of his team-mates late on Sunday were quickly brushed over.
Asked who had decided to release the statement, he said: “The whole England side, all the guys thought that a statement would put an end to it and I think it has.”
When Broad was quizzed further, an England spokeswoman said: “We’ve issued the apology and we’ve got nothing more to say on that.”
The claims against the England players arose following eyewitness accounts by Australian journalists, who were still in the ground while England celebrated in the middle of the Oval.
Following reports that the England and Wales Cricket Board had launched an investigation, a statement was released on the governing body’s website.
“The England cricket team would like to state that during our celebrations after winning the Ashes at no time was there any intention to disrespect Surrey CCC, the Oval or anyone else involved in the game we love,” the statement on www.ecb.co.uk read. “As a team we pride ourselves on respecting all things cricket including the opposition and the grounds we play at. We got carried away amongst the euphoria of winning such a prestigious series and accept that some of our behaviour was inappropriate. If that has caused any offence to anyone we apologise for that and want to reassure people that it was a simple error of judgment more than anything else.”
While the ECB may have felt a sense of tedium about the furore over the Oval celebrations, Broad is likely to face vastly more contestant pressure Down Under during this winter’s return Ashes tour.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann stoked up Antipodean antipathy last week when he told a Melbourne radio station he hoped his side’s fans would “send Broad home crying” after labelling him a cheat for not walking after he was caught at slip during the first Test at Trent Bridge.
Lehmann apologised to Broad for the comments after the Oval Test, but there are suggestions security around the right-armer will now be beefed up this winter.
Broad does not intend to let that affect his time in Australia. “I’ll feel like a rock star with some big heavies behind me. I’m not concerned at all,” he said. “I’ve toured Australia a couple of times. I’ve always loved Australia – it’s a fantastic place to go with great restaurants and good bars. I see that as being no different.”
Asked if he might be more reticent to venture out of the hotel, he added: “Me, reluctant to go out – I don’t think so. I’m not bothered by that sort of thing. At the end of the day we are going to Australia to win the Ashes and play games of cricket.
“That will be the players’ job. The rest of the off-field stuff is up to the ECB to sort out. I’m certainly not going to be looking over my shoulder.”
For now at least Broad is hoping to keep the pressure on Australia in tomorrow’s Twenty20 international in Southampton.
Australia have not won an international fixture since 10 February this year – after winless tours of India and so far in England – and Broad hopes to maintain that run. “Any time you step on the field in an England shirt you are looking to beat the opposition,” he said. “We know Australia are a dangerous team and we know they will be hungry to beat England. They’ve not beaten England in England since June 2010 in any format.
“It’s up to us to continue that form and that responsibility falls on these players. It’s an exciting responsibility.”
Broad believes his batsmen will be the key to securing victory on an Ageas Bowl pitch that has favoured high scoring this season.
“There’s a real belief in that changing room that we can set a huge target or chase a huge target down,” he said.
“It’s an exciting line-up and there are some powerful players.
“That’s a good place to be as a Twenty20 side and it’s great for English cricket to have so many exciting Twenty20 talents.”
England celebrate their 3-0 Ashes series win over Australia, with wicket-keeper Matt Prior posting a picture on his official Twitter account of the players sitting on the pitch at the Kia Oval with beers in hand.
Reports emerge that Australian journalists witnessed a number of England players, naming Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and James Anderson, urinating on the Oval pitch to apparent cheers from team-mates during the celebrations. England team director Andy Flower dismisses the reports as a “ridiculous topic” when he faces the media for a post-Ashes debrief.
England spinner Graeme Swann appears to confirm in his newspaper column that some players had relieved themselves on the pitch, saying: “We did go out to the middle of the pitch, all the lads, drinking beers, singing a few songs and enjoying each other’s company. I think the call of nature might have come once or twice but it was nothing untoward.”
Australia great Shane Warne accuses England of being “crass” and “arrogant” over the alleged incident, adding: “I’m sure it will have some big ramifications from the ECB.”
England issue a statement through the ECB’s website to apologise for any offence caused during the celebrations.