England news August 26, 2013

England's late-night antics bring Morris headache

Officialdom beamed down on England after their third successive Ashes victory but the ECB hierarchy might feel obliged to take a more dim view of an alleged late-night celebration which ended with them urinating on The Oval pitch on which they had completed their triumph only hours before.

Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, has had matters of rather more import to deal with, but it will invite a troubled shrug nonetheless on a day when it has been confirmed that he is resigning to take up the vacant chief executive's role at Glamorgan.

It will be dismissed as a supreme irrelevance by many - it is quite a trek from the Oval square to the nearest toilets - but it is bound to be viewed as distasteful in other quarters and presented as an example of the laddish culture which pervades English society.

Australian cricket journalists were still at The Oval, completing dead-of-night tour pieces with the help of free beer and sandwiches from the ECB, when they reported seeing several England players take it turns to relieve themselves on the pitch. It is not known how much they relieved themselves but reportedly there was more than enough to fill an Ashes urn.

It was enough for Ben Horne of AAP to term it a "distasteful finale" and report that "cleaning staff and other game day workers were still present at the ground."

Malcolm Conn, chief cricket writer for News Limited, described the ground as "quite dark" and said that players were "gathered near the pitch celebrating and yahooing".

England's celebrations had begun in a more carefully choreographed manner, with the obligatory fireworks and champagne at the awards ceremony and players holding their children in their arms as they strolled around the outfield shaking hands with the crowd.

They then returned to the dressing room with a quiet celebration with their families before the players themselves moved to the centre of the Oval to continue what their captain, Alastair Cook, had described as a deserved few beers, chatting among themselves and cherishing privately what they had achieved.

Uninhibited post-series celebrations are regarded as part and parcel of professional team sport in England, a final restatement of team morale and a release from the strict professionalism, with few opportunities for downtime, which is now the lot of an England cricketer.

But judging by reports from Australian journalists, who arguably represent more dangerous opponents to England than their team, England's players, who are well practiced in zipping up their mouths in an era of cautious media comments, may now have to receive training in zipping up their trousers.

Morris' first task will be to ascertain whether England's behaviour carried any deeper significance other than the urge to relieve themselves. Certainly England's weak bladders provided final justification for all those toilet breaks, but were there other more worrying explanations?

Was it an indication of what England's players think of the dry surfaces on which they have won the Ashes series - surfaces which suited them but which often demanded laborious cricket? Australians scoffed that this was the first watering England's Test pitches had had for months.

Were they paying homage in a strange fashion to the antics of Monty Panesar, whose place in England's Ashes squad for the return series is in jeopardy because he urinated from on high on a Brighton nightclub bouncer?

Or were they simply marking out their territory after dismissing Australia 3-0 in the five-Test series? It is common in cats, especially male cats. Neutering is often proposed as a solution.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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