Ollie Robinson impressed on his Test debut for England but his performance was subsequently overshadowed. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty ImagesOllie Robinson impressed on his Test debut for England but his performance was subsequently overshadowed. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty [email protected]_BurntonThu 3 Jun 2021 17.53 BST
The England and Wales Cricket Board appears determined to punish Ollie Robinson for the offensive and embarrassing tweets which were rediscovered and distributed on Wednesday as he made his Test debut for England, though the board is yet to determine precisely what form the punishment will take. What has been decided is that it will not leave itself open to similar scandals in the future.
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Robinson is likely to be the last player to make his full international debut without anyone having sifted through historic social media posts in search of potential embarrassment. Aspiring internationals will also be reminded of the repercussions of online indiscretions, should the image of a humiliated Robinson reading his statement on Sky at the close of play on Wednesday not prove sufficient. “It’s clearly something going forward that might need to be looked at so a day like yesterday doesn’t happen,” said England’s assistant coach, Graham Thorpe, on Thursday.
The ECB’s first task, however, is to establish Robinson’s contractual status at the time he sent the tweets, and whether he was a fully professional cricketer under the governing body’s auspices when they were published.
Beyond what it says about the player’s mindset at the time, the controversy has been unseemly and particularly damaging for a sport desperately trying to reposition itself as one that is open and accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Robinson’s statement, delivered on television, radio and to the written press, has been well received. He also impressed his new teammates by apologising to them. But despite the apparent authenticity of his contrition and the acceptance that an occasionally wild teenager has matured into a dedicated professional, there is a feeling in the ECB that some form of punishment – possibly a fine, perhaps also suspension from the second Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston next week – is still necessary.
Despite the controversy Robinson received a notably warm ovation when he was introduced to the crowd before bowling on Thursday morning. His focus had clearly not been adversely affected: he performed excellently and, along with Mark Wood, proceeded to transform England’s fortunes before lunch, reducing New Zealand from 276 for three when they replaced Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad to 294 for seven, before they rallied to post a total of 378.
“It was a tough day for him yesterday,” said Thorpe. “He had to say sorry to the dressing room, he had to say sorry to the world about what he did. From that perspective it was very hard for him, but he knows he made a mistake and that’s why he had to make those apologies.
“In the dressing room we have to support him as well, and we were really pleased that he showed good character. He had to be pretty resilient, because whatever he’s done it’s not easy to go back out there and perform and I thought his bowling performance was exceptional.”
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Devon Conway completed a brilliant 347-ball double-century for New Zealand, the fifth-highest debut innings in Test history, reaching the landmark with a top-edged six off of Wood before being run out in the following over without facing another ball. “It was an incredible innings,” said the bowler Tim Southee. “Devon’s banged out runs domestically for a number of years. He’s come into the international scene, he’s already got a Twenty20 99 not out, a one-day hundred, and now a Test double-hundred on debut. He’s a special player. We’ve known that for a little while now, and everyone’s just extremely proud and pleased for him, for what has been such a dream couple of days.”
England recovered from the early loss of Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley to end the day on 111 for two, with Rory Burns unbeaten on 59 and Joe Root on 42. “From where we were in the morning we’re really happy to fight back,” said Thorpe. “The bowlers did a fantastic job. It could have got away from us but we’ve given ourselves a chance and if we can bat well tomorrow hopefully we can put some pressure back on New Zealand. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do with the bat.”