England captain Ben Stokes predicted the animosity towards Australia would ramp up at Headingley — and he was absolutely right.
The Leeds crowd, to nobody’s surprise, showered the touring side with boos on Thursday morning, voicing their disgust in response to Jonny Bairstow’s controversial stumping during the second Ashes Test at Lord’s.
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Captain Pat Cummins was booed at the toss, which Stokes won for a third consecutive time, and the hissing continued after the Australian national anthem.
However, a crescendo of jeers erupted when Steve Smith, who was playing his 100th Test match, walked out to bat in the morning session of day one — the 34-year-old’s career milestone wasn’t going to prevent the Headingley spectators from taunting the Australian vice-captain.
Smith is well-accustomed to being booed in the United Kingdom — he was relentlessly heckled during the 2019 Ashes series, which marked his return to Test cricket following the infamous Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.
Four years ago, the Lord’s crowd booed Smith off the field as he retired hurt following his concussion scare against England quick Jofra Archer. The London spectators booed him again when he returned to the crease, and the jeers continued when he was dismissed for 92.
“It doesn’t bother me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” Smith told reporters this week.
“I know the person I am, and how I want to go about things. I’m out here playing my game, playing my game and playing for my country, and I’m proud of that.
“Anyone can say what they like … I’m comfortable in my own skin.”
Veteran England seamer Stuart Broad dismissed Smith for 22 moments before the lunch break at Headingley, caught behind by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
The right-hander called for a review, but Snicko showed a thick inside edge — which inevitably evoked another chorus of boos from the raucous crowd.
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However, the loudest moment of the day came when Alex Carey walked out to bat in the evening session, with every England supporter booing as the Australian wicketkeeper waltzed towards the middle.
It was followed by chants of: “Stand up if you hate Carey.”
Sections of the crowd cheered in approval when Carey was struck in the shoulder by Chris Woakes’ bouncer — and you can only imagine how they responded when Mark Wood dismissed the South Australian for 8.