Michael Clarke and James Anderson exchange words © Getty Images
In the wake of a fractious (and slightly farcical) finish to the Brisbane Test, sledging is on the Ashes agenda again. As with Michael Clarke’s robust advice to James Anderson in the same match four years ago, the stump mics again picked up Australia’s chatter in the middle – although this time there was a subtler edge to attempts to ruffle Jonny Bairstow, by way of bringing up his now-infamous head-first greeting of Cameron Bancroft earlier on tour. The Ashes has always got people talking and the players are no exception – the rivalry once memorably been described as “a contest between bat, ball and mouth”. Here is an (almost completely arbitrary) Ashes sledges XI.
“Sorry, Doctor, she slipped.”
WG Grace was rarely short of a word or two on the pitch, but he was put on the back foot both physically and verbally by Ernie Jones back in 1896. When the Aussie quick unleashed a short ball during the Lord’s Test, it went straight into WG’s beard and out again (in the manner of Richie Benaud’s “confectionery stall”). Grace’s bristles doubtless bristled but Jones was ready with a snappy reply.
“Okay, which one of you bastards called Larwood a bastard instead of this bastard?”
The “Bodyline” series of 1932-33 didn’t lack for quotable moments. Douglas Jardine was hell bent on neutering Bradman and regaining the Ashes – a plan which succeeded, but at great cost. When Jardine went to complain about abuse of his strike bowler Harold Larwood, he was met by Vic Richardson (grandfather of the Chappell brothers), whose question to his team-mates in the Australia dressing room seemed to settle the matter.
“Leave our flies alone, Jardine. They’re the only friends you’ve got here.”
It’s not just your opponents on the field you have to watch out for in Australia. Jardine’s status on that same tour was summed up by a sledge from the stands, credited to “Yabba” (Stephen Gascoigne), Sydney’s famed heckler on the Hill. A statue of Yabba remains seated in the SCG today.
Douglas Jardine and Bill Woodfull toss ahead of the fiery Adelaide Test © The Cricketer International
“How’s the hand, which one was it?
“It was my right.”
“That’s a shame, we were aiming for the left.
Ian Chappell‘s concern for Derek Underwood after he was hit by a bouncer in 1972 was revealed as another chance for a sly dig – but England had the last laugh, as the left-armer’s ten-wicket haul on a fungus-affected Headingley pitch ensured they retained they Ashes.
“Take a good look at this arse of mine, you’ll see plenty of it this summer.”
David Steele – aka. “the bank clerk who went to war” – was 33, bespectacled and grey of hair when he made his Test debut at Lord’s in the 1975 Ashes. Having been chirped by Dennis Lillee on his way out, Steele supposedly turned to Rod Marsh behind the stumps and told him to get used to the sight. He was true to his word, averaging 60.83 against the Australians and winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, too.
“No good hitting me there, mate, nothing to damage.”
The English line of self-deprecation was impishly embodied on the cricket pitch by Derek Randall. Felled by a Lillee bouncer during the 1977 Centenary Test, he rose to his feet and doffed his cap (no helmets back then) to the bowler, adding for good measure that a glancing blow to the head was unlikely to have done him harm anyway.
“When in Rome, dear boy…”
England were battling to save the Sydney Test in 1990-91, when Mike Atherton declined to walk after an appeal for an edge behind. “You’re a f****** cheat!” barked Ian Healy. Atherton, in typically phlegmatic fashion, carried on regardless.
“Mate, if you just turn the bat over, you’ll find instructions on the other side.”
Merv Hughes was such a pest he was given the nickname “Fruitfly”. His sledging repertoire knew few bounds but he could be creative as well as crude, as this acid putdown to Graeme Hick – England’s latest great batting hope – during the 1993 Ashes emphasised.
Merv Hughes prepares to let one rip © Getty Images
“Oi, Tufnell, lend us your brain. We’re building an idiot.”
Another crowd contribution, from the 1994-95 tour, but one Phil Tufnell has played in his favour during a post-playing career as a loveable TV personality and broadcaster. Four years earlier, even the umpires were getting in on the act: when Tufnell asked Peter McConnell how many balls were left to be bowled in the over, he received the reply: “Count ’em yourself, you Pommie c***.”
“Mate, what are you doing out here? There’s no way you’re good enough to play for England.”
“Maybe not, but at least I’m the best player in my own family.”
Jimmy Ormond‘s Test career may not have been particularly memorable but his response to Mark Waugh’s trash talk during the 2001 series will go down in history as one of cricket’s great rejoinders.
“Get ready for a broken f***** arm.”
The sledge that finally won many Australians over to Michael Clarke. Referred to (disparagingly) as a bit of a “metrosexual”, Clarke showed his ocker Aussie inside when instructing Anderson to face up to Mitchell Johnson, who by the end of the 2013-14 Brisbane Test was well into his England-demolishing stride. Anderson had been having a go at George Bailey, fielding at short leg, but it was Clarke’s salty intervention that set the tone for an England hammering.
Alan Gardner is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo