If Ollie Robinson’s performance was analysed for cricketing reasons alone, it would be reasonable to assume that the analysis would be wholly positive. Yet, two hours after the close of play, Robinson was suspended from international cricket for the foreseeable future over racist and sexist remarks made on social media.
Notwithstanding that the offending tweets were posted 9 years ago, it was the manner of his scripted apology that didn’t strike me with confidence. I do not condone racism or sexism in any way and dislike the way that people who stand up for decency are somehow deemed to be the bad guy all too often in our polarised society and are branded ‘woke’, but these are tweets that were posted almost a decade ago. When I heard that Ollie Robinson had made an apology, I was poised to forget the matter as an instance of youthful misjudgement. Case closed.
Then I watched the apology.
A meaningful apology is one that is heartfelt, where wrongdoing is acknowledged and forgiveness sought. I appreciate that the ECB likely had a hand in the words spoken by Robinson once the tweets came to light but the delivery of them left a lot to be desired. It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it.
The polarised nature of our society demands a strong opinion on whether Robinson has been punished enough for his historical misdemeanours. Michael Atherton’s article in The Times highlights that exact point, and as one pithy comment highlights – in suspending Robinson, the ECB have held him to a higher standard than the country has of our current Prime Minister.
Whether you believe Robinson shouldn’t be able to play cricket internationally again will depend, largely, on whether you buy in to those polarised debates. Considering that the offences pre-date Ollie’s inclusion in the England team and the fact that he has now apologised, albeit by using a scripted response written for him, I would be inclined to educate him rather than eliminate him from the national game. Many will disagree with that conclusion, however, on balance of all the facts, that is where my instincts lie.
And what a shame it would be if this were both the beginning and the end. Robinson was a bright spark in an otherwise dull England performance, save for Sibley’s ton.
At 27 years old, the fast bowler has plenty to offer England as they look towards life after Anderson and Broad. However, given the reaction of the ECB, it seems that this may be the end, at least for now.
So what now for this England side?
After a turgid performance that had me dozing off, sleeping away my birthday hangover rather than engaging me in a final day thriller, I hope some spark returns for the next test. The absence of Stokes and Buttler in particular hit England hard as they struggled to accelerate with the bat. Utilising Joe Root as the sole spinner in the line-up again shows how little faith England have in Bess and Ali and I feel that it is something they ought to rectify quickly if they are to be successful in the months to come. I have a spot of deja vu typing this – I may have said it before!
England will, of course, have to replace Ollie Robinson for the next test and it may be the case that they opt for spin in Robinson’s place which would leave open the opportunity for the recalled Dom Bess to return to test match action. It is surely unlikely that England will field both Anderson and Broad in the 2nd test with at least one likely to make way in line with the rotation policy. That may prop the door open for Craig Overton to return, the Somerset fast bowler, who last played for England in September 2019.
Whilst it was pleasing to see Dom Sibley carry his bat on 133*, England need to bat with more intent to put pressure on New Zealand next time around. Stokes and Buttler were sorely missed and it showed. If Sibley had been more expansive and lost his wicket cheaply, it would have exposed England’s fragile middle order which lacked a game changer. James Bracey made his first international appearance as wicket keeper and didn’t fare well with the bat – he is, however, a bright prospect for the future. England did not have a power hitter who could engage T20 mode to up the scoring rate and seize initiative. Instead, they trundled towards a draw.
Kane Williamson saw his chance on the final day and declared in the second innings with plenty of time still left in the game. A target of 273 was achievable in the overs that remained but England didn’t even try. We have all had a torrid year. COVID-19 has affected everyone, including those who enjoy the thrill of a live sporting event.
With a socially-distanced crowd in at Lord’s on the final day, Joe Root would have been forgiven for encouraging his batsmen to give it a go, even if doing so resulted in defeat. I can’t help but feel that England should have tried and failed, providing a spectacle for supporters, than failed to try at all.
In years to come, this test may be remembered, but it won’t be for the cricket.