England’s Ashes tour got real as the traditional Gabba greetings began in Brisbane.
Jonny Bairstow did the tourists’ talking at a brief airport press conference, and said many of the right things to waiting camera crews – about his own team, Australia and Ben Stokes.
England have taken their usual circuitous route to the venue for this week’s first Test, docking in Perth three weeks ago, then on to Adelaide before making a six-day stop in Townsville.
After a two-hour flight south on Sunday, Bairstow was back in more familiar surroundings – as a veteran of England’s last tour Down Under, the 5-0 whitewash defeat of 2013/14.
This time, they checked into Brisbane on the back of a tough last two days in northern Queensland.
England could manage just a solitary wicket on Saturday, in fact, as unheralded Cricket Australia XI batsmen Jason Sangha and Matt Short hit big hundreds in a double-century stand to close out a highly honourable draw in a match Joe Root’s men were expected to win at a canter.
Bright-eyed Bairstow was not about to get bogged down with those inconvenient details, though.
Asked to sum up the collective mood four days from the start of hostilities at the Gabba, the wicketkeeper chose three adjectives: “Content, relaxed, excited. We are raring to go.”
If England thought they had a rough ride at Townsville’s Tony Ireland Stadium, it was nothing to the weekend entertainment they took in at close of play.
“We’ve been to the rodeo for the last couple of nights, and it was fantastic,” said Bairstow, determined to enjoy Australia as well as the Ashes this winter.
“It’s a fantastic place to be, and if you can’t enjoy and embrace the country then there’s something wrong with you.
“The cricket that comes with it is an amazing spectacle, because it’s not just England and Australia – it’s a worldwide event.”
The Yorkshireman’s charm offensive included a gag about this week’s grim weather forecast too, before he had to get on to the thornier topic of Stokes’ absence.
“I’m used to it, being from Leeds!” he said. “If it rains it rains. That’s something we can’t control.”
The same could be said for Stokes’ situation, still at home waiting to hear if he will be charged after a late-night fracas in Bristol eight weeks ago.
Reports are again suggesting Avon & Somerset Police may make a decision this week, which could put the ball back in the England and Wales Cricket Board’s court with regards to the key all-rounder’s availability here.
“It would be amazing if Stokesy comes out,” said Bairstow. “(But) we don’t know what’s going on at the moment – it’s completely out of our hands.
“We hope it’s resolved sooner rather than later, because we want the best cricketers playing in the Ashes.
“That’s the series we want. We don’t want people not playing and the standard going down because of that. (But) whether Ben comes over or not, the 11 guys who take the field at the Gabba on Thursday will be very motivated.”
Australia coach Darren Lehmann has made clear his team will not be stressing over Stokes either.
“We can’t worry about it at the moment. For us it is more of a case of dealing with the squad they’ve got here,” he said.
“We are preparing to get stuck into the preparation for what is going to be a bloody exciting series. Everyone is chomping at the bit for it.”
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