Ben Stokes arrives in Christchurch to hostile Australian media reception



Australian papers have piled into Ben Stokes as he arrives closer to – if not actually on – their shores.

The England allrounder has flown to Christchurch in New Zealand to play with local club Canterbury, some 3,000km east of his team-mates who are preparing for the second Test in Adelaide. “Bad boy flies in,” was the headline on the front of the broadsheet Australian, echoed in the Herald Sun and other News Corp stablemates. As he landed, the front of the Adelaide Advertiser’s website said: “English cricket’s bad boy touches down in NZ.”

Peter Lalor, in the Australian, was not the only writer to say the move raised the prospect of Stokes playing in the next Test, in Perth.

“If the visitors are not in crisis they are doing a good impression on an outfit on the verge of one.”

Ben Horne of the Daily Telegraph argued that Stokes’ dash to New Zealand underlined England’s blundering approach to a selection dilemma sparked when Stokes was arrested after a late-night altercation outside a nightclub in Bristol two months ago.

“England’s handling of the assault drama has been an unmitigated disaster”. Horne also drew attention to potential discord in the English camp. “Team supremo Andrew Strauss is the man who should be under the gun. Strauss fronted the media in Brisbane on Monday and asked for an update on Stokes, said there was nothing on offer. Barely 12 hours on and Stokes was escaping London … his brazen flight to New Zealand says that England cricket stands for nothing.”

As the Guardian reported, the 26-year-old was issued with a “no-objection certificate” last Friday by Strauss.

News Corp also interviewed Matt Cronin, the father of a Melbourne teenager Patrick Cronin who died after he was punched in the head helping friends in a fight. In it, Cronin argued that Stokes should not be granted a visa for entry into Australia. Under Australian law, visas can be refused or cancelled if a person does not pass the character test set by the Immigration minister.

In the Age and Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew Wu said England’s off-field issues – including Jonny Bairstow’s “head-butt” of Cameron Bancroft that has led to reports of a curfew – had diverted attention away from the Adelaide Test, which presented their best chance of fighting back in the series.

On the ABC, Catherine McGregor was doubtful England could overcome the weight of history to recover from their Brisbane capitulation and off-field issues. Posed in the rhetorical, she asked if England could regain respectability, before concluding “this is not a great England side”.

Much of the commentary on Stokes and Bairstow in the Australian papers is gleefully syndicated from British sports pages. Michael Vaughan, writing for the UK Daily Telegraph but featured in the Fairfax papers, said the Bairstow incident had merely reinforced their “laddish, drinking-culture image,”, and confirmed that the players had not learnt from the Stokes incident. Michael Atherton’s writing in the Times, also on the Australian’s website, says “nobody wanted curfews, not Strauss, not [coach] Trevor Bayliss, nor the players, so it is a measure of the management’s frustration”. He added that Strauss was a man who likes thing to be in order” and that the drama of the series so far must be “irritating him no end”.