AT LEAST the third of England’s trio of world-class all-rounders is clean-living Moeen Ali — who is unlikely to get in any scrapes on a night out.
But make no mistake, the wheels are coming off this Ashes tour after 24 hours from hell.
News of Jonny Bairstow’s bar-room altercation with Aussie rookie Cameron Bancroft, who scored the winning runs, broke within an hour of the close of day four at the Gabba by when England knew they were heading for defeat.
The agony for Joe Root’s men lasted just 16 overs and 69 minutes today when Australia, needing 56, sealed an emphatic ten-wicket win — David Warner finishing on 87 and Bancroft making 82.
Word is Bairstow’s skirmish with Bancroft was no more than ill-judged horseplay between two men enjoying a drink together both before and after their minor clash of heads.
But every England cricketer who has toured Australia knows they do so with a bloody great target on their backs.
And after the premier Pommie all-rounder Ben Stokes was arrested and suspended following a street brawl in Bristol in September, all of Root’s players ought to have been on their best behaviour.
Bairstow, who was fined £1,000 for being out late on the night of the Stokes incident, should have known better than most.
For wicketkeeper-batsman Bairstow to make himself a magnet for on-field and off-field Aussie sledging, with news of this flashpoint in Perth on the very first night of England’s tour, was foolish at the very least.
Bairstow was given dog’s abuse by Aussie fielders when he batted on day four, scoring 42 before he was caught at third man after a rash upper-cut.
Warner was heard on a stump microphone telling Jimmy Anderson ‘you shouldn’t head-butt our mates’ at the start of Australia’s run chase — leading to the story breaking in the Aussie media.
With this following hot on the heels of the Stokes incident, the cheerleaders in the Aussie press have seized on the incident and are asking whether there is a drinking culture in this England cricket team.
And while it is not known whether Bairstow was drunk that night in Perth, there does appear to be a culture of wanton stupidity.
Nobody wants to stop a group of young men who spend half of their lives living in hotels from having a few drinks when their schedule allows it.
But providing this sort of ammo to an Aussie press with an insatiable appetite for Pommie-bashing is downright negligent.
As Root’s men packed up their blood-spattered whites and exited the Gabbatoir, they will have been shaking their heads in disbelief. For three days, there wasn’t a fag paper between them and Steve Smith’s Aussies.
Yet after that nightmare fourth day, the signs are grim.
Australia boast the world’s best batsman in skipper Smith; they have a far quicker, more hostile pace attack; they have stronger tail-end batting and in pre-match gob artist Nathan Lyon, the superior spinner.
Alastair Cook, one of only two English batsmen to have scored Ashes hundreds, looks woefully out of form — and Aussie strike bowler Mitchell Starc feels he has the former captain’s number after dismissing him cheaply in both innings.
Ashes rookies Mark Stoneman and James Vince showed promise yet England’s batting engine room is severely damaged by Stokes’ absence.
Without Stokes, England appear to be ‘seven out, all out’ — or with Chris Woakes shrinking in stature, pretty much ‘six out, all out’.
Bairstow clearly doesn’t fancy a nine, ten, jack of Stuart Broad, Jake Ball and Anderson. As a result the Yorkshireman got out to reckless shots in both innings.
When Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood take aim at the English tail, it is less like a cricket match than a rabbit shoot.
Contrast this with the unruffled Aussie No 9 Cummins, during his crucial first-innings 42. This could become a key factor all series long.
England are likely to be unchanged for the Second Test, starting in Adelaide on Saturday, because there are few feasible options. Root’s men must win there to have any realistic chance of hanging on to the urn.
And the fact the ball is expected to seam about under the lights in the day-nighter could play into the hands of Anderson and Broad.
But after the car-crash fourth day at the Gabba, that kind of thinking felt a little like clutching at straws.
As Moeen said on Sunday, this Australian team is not as good as it is often cracked up to be — certainly not a patch on the great sides of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Yet England are too reliant on too few experienced players — Cook, Root, Anderson and Broad. Meanwhile, Root has converted only five of his last 25 Test half-centuries into tons — and after reaching 51 on Sunday, he was trapped lbw by Hazlewood next ball.
The Aussies feel they can keep getting him this way due to a tendency to fall over at the crease.
In contrast, Smith looked invincible during his unbeaten 141.
Despite all this England did squander a couple of clear opportunities to take a stranglehold.
First, when Dawid Malan’s hook shoot led to three quick wickets on the second morning.
And then when Root failed to hand a newish ball to Anderson or Broad for 50 minutes after lunch on day three — allowing Smith and Cummins to fight back.
Small margins can make significant differences and there were none smaller than Moeen’s wafer-thin stumping.
Bairstow’s scrape with Bancroft may only have been relatively minor too — but it only adds to an impression of a tour hurtling out of control.