Azeem Rafiq case and Tim Paine scandal should be off limits for Ashes sledging, says Chris Woakes

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  • Tim Paine
    Australian cricketer
  • Chris Woakes
    Chris Woakes
    English cricketer
Azeem Rafiq and Tim Paine.
Azeem Rafiq and Tim Paine.

The Azeem Rafiq case and Tim Paine scandal should be off limits for sledging in the Ashes according to Chris Woakes as both teams grapple with sensitive issues ahead of the series.

There has been little mud slinging and the phoney war practically non-existent due to the problems that engulfed the teams over the past couple of weeks. While England have been dealing with racism issues, the Australia team have been unable to claim the moral high ground reeling as they are from losing their captain to a sexting incident.

Woakes was speaking at the Ian Healy Oval on Thursday where the rain clouds finally moved away and England played some actual cricket with 78 overs bowled by the Test attack against the Lions team.

Significantly, Ben Stokes bowled his first ball in whites for England since March, taking the first wicket of the day when he dismissed Zak Crawely, while Stuart Broad and James Anderson finally had proper workouts, bowling 19 overs between them.

Ben Stokes of England bowls during an Ashes Tour Match between England Men and England Lions, at Ian Healy Oval, Brisbane, Australia, 02 December 2021. - JONO SEARLE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Ben Stokes of England bowls during an Ashes Tour Match between England Men and England Lions, at Ian Healy Oval, Brisbane, Australia, 02 December 2021. - JONO SEARLE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Woakes batted for the Lions XI and may well have to wait for his chance in the Ashes series while Ollie Robinson bowled 12 overs for England and Stokes took two for 21. One strong clue from the England line up was the selection of Jonny Bairstow at six, with Ollie Pope at three for the Lions and was dismissed by Joe Root for 27. The Lions finished on 226 for four.

Australia confirmed Alex Carey as their wicketkeeper for the first Test, replacing Paine who is taking a break for his mental health after his humiliating exit as captain.

"I think what's happened in both camps, a lot of the issues are personal and cricket is played best when that sort of stuff is left to the side and we let the skills do the talking," said Woakes.

Whether that plea falls on deaf ears when the series hots up remains to be seen. England’s last two tours have featured spicy sledging from Michael Clarke threatening Anderson with a broken arm eight years ago and David Warner going at full blast in 2017-18.

In the past games against state sides were competitive and gave England a taste of what was to come, both from a cricket point of view and verbally. This time it is different. Little can be read into intra-squad games but it was noticeable that Jack Leach struggled for consistency and was attacked by the batsmen. It is no surprise that he lacks rhythm, and he conceded 69 from 18 overs as the Lions gave him a taste of the aggression he will face in the Test series if picked.

Stokes bowled sharply on a pitch with good bounce although a wet, slow outfield made it a long day for the England fielders but at least they were outside, finally, and have a modicum of practice behind them ahead of the Test.

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