Roger Alton

Why we all need an Ollie Robinson

[Getty Images]

It’s a long way from Edgbaston to Karachi, but that’s where my thoughts were turning after Australia’s last-gasp victory in an unbearably tense, always thrilling, wonderful Ashes Test on Tuesday. Ominously for England, Australia’s three best batsmen, and the three best in the world, misfired simultaneously over five days. But they still managed to win. Oh well…

Anyway, we were at the Sind Club ground on a cricket tour to Pakistan. It hadn’t been that long since the Sri Lankans had been shot up in Lahore so there was still a bristling police presence at our game, reassuringly unsmiling blokes wielding very large submachine guns. Pakistan being a country where everyone loves cricket, and seems to play it pretty well too, our team of journalists and club players were heavily outclassed. A steady stream of our men were despatched back to the pavilion with a polite pat on the back from our opponents: ‘Bad luck, well played sir.’ Until the end…

It was the sheer absurdity of Robinson’s torrent of abuse that made it so inoffensive

One of our team was an impeccably behaved, and seriously honoured, gentleman of the old school, a charming man whose presence always lifted the spirits. But he recognised that his best days were behind him. Gamely he went out to bat, smartly dressed and politely greeting the opposition with a smiling ‘Good afternoon’. He loved cricket, but he wasn’t that good at it. Soon he was out, clean bowled. The fielders leapt in the air with a fierce roar, pointing our man back to the pavilion, and the air was filled with some guttural Pakistani oaths. You couldn’t have asked for a nicer man – or a less threatening cricketer – to take a barrel of abuse. Baffling, and funny. It was as if Jeff Thomson had flattened Colin Cowdrey’s stumps.

And that was why it was so hilarious to see Ollie Robinson give Usman Khawaja a four-letter mouthful when he finally bowled the Australian opener on Sunday.

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