Australia shrug off Ben Stokes ‘Bristol’ jibes

Australia captain Tim Paine denied his side had let the verbal warfare go too far as England laid the foundations for an Ashes-levelling victory in the final Test.
England's Ben Stokes. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA WireEngland's Ben Stokes. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
England's Ben Stokes. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

England batted throughout day three as they piled up a towering lead of 382 at The Oval, and will look to stretch that past 400 when they resume on 313 for eight.

The tourists attempted to unsettle the hosts with a stream of chatter in a tense morning session, with Matthew Wade seemingly to the fore, and the stump microphone picked up attempts to wind up Ben Stokes during his combative knock of 67.

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The England all-rounder missed the last Ashes series Down Under after his arrest for a late night scuffle in Bristol – an incident that ultimately led to his acquittal on charges of affray – and references to the city were seemingly audible from the close fielders.

Paine was brought in to captain his country in an overt attempt to clean up Australia’s reputation and conduct following the sandpaper scandal and did not take kindly to suggestions he had overseen a slip in standards.

“You tell me. It’s competitive Test cricket and people are going to talk to each other,” he said.

“I don’t know why it’s such an issue. It’s fine. They are grown men having a conversation, no-one is swearing, no-one is abusing anyone: it’s Test match cricket and I don’t understand why so much is made of something so little, particularly given the standard of cricket being played.

“I think there’s so much more to talk about. I think both sides have played this series in good spirit.”

Joe Denly was out in the middle for longer than any other batsman as he underpinned the England innings with a career-best knock of 94, and he declined to fan the flames any further.

“I didn’t hear anything about Bristol but when Ben comes to the crease, the kind of player he is, they’re going to try and unsettle him,” he said.

“Stokesy deals with that pretty well. There’s always going to be a bit of niggle but nothing over the line, just a bit of friendly banter.”

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Denly has had a memorable few days, having become a father for the second time in between the first and second days of the match. To follow that personal news up with a performance of real grit and substance in his final appearance of the summer left him content and surprisingly well rested.

“I had a very good last night because I stayed at the hotel and got about ten hours! The previous night I only had about three hours so I caught up,” he said. “I missed the birth of my first child – he arrived three weeks early and I was playing in Derby, the midwife said ‘don’t rush’ so I didn’t! I hit traffic and missed it by about five minutes. So it was good to get there and see my little girl come into the world. It’s been a pretty special couple of days.

“It would have been nice to get to the milestone having worked so hard but I’d probably take it, yeah. England are in a very strong position going into day four and hopefully we get a few more runs and put them under pressure.”