Ollie Robinson shows his resilience: It does not undo Twitter damage after historic racist and sexist posts were unearthed but England debutant at least makes positive impact on the field against New Zealand
- Ollie Robinson showed some resilience on Day 2 against New Zealand at Lord’s
- The England debutant was marred by the discovery of racist and sexist tweets
- Robinson took four wickets from New Zealand’s first innings in a good showing
- The 27-year-old ‘s actions cannot be undone but he made a positive impact
Twenty-four hours after being handed his England cap, Ollie Robinson embarked on the second phase of his Test career. The first, consisting entirely of Wednesday, had been the best of days and the worst of days. What he needed was stability.
Robinson will always be the guy whose Test debut was marred by the discovery of racist and sexist tweets from his teenage past. The question was whether he would also be the guy who put the nightmare behind him quickly enough to have an impact on the rest of the game.
It wasn’t a matter of redemption. Idiotic tweets inhabit a different sphere from Test wickets. A five-for would not suddenly have made up for a comment about Muslims and bombs, just as conceding five an over would not have confirmed him as a wrong’un.
Ollie Robinson showed resilience to make a positive impact on Day 2 against New Zealand
But it was a test of resilience, in a very modern, rolling-news kind of way. Robinson’s challenge on the second day was to make it harder for the selectors to leave him out, regardless of if his short-term fate is a ban.
What he couldn’t afford was to follow crass nine-year-old tweets on his mobile phone with a pile of dross out in the middle. He couldn’t make good the tweets. But he could invite more opprobrium.
When Robinson came on to bowl shortly before 11.30am, replacing Jimmy Anderson at the Nursery End, he was greeted by a smattering of applause (boos these days at sporting events are reserved for those who take a knee). But his first contribution to England’s cause came moments later, when he held a well-judged catch at long-leg as Henry Nicholls top-edged a pull off Mark Wood.
The England debutant was marred by the discovery of historic sexist and racist tweets
The 27-year-old’s actions can not be undone, but he needed to respond with a strong display
It would have been a bad one to drop, though an error would have been understandable in the circumstances. For Robinson, it must have felt like a small box ticked, a moment when his Test debut did not get obviously worse.
Wood quickly removed BJ Watling, compiler of a double-century against England at Mount Maunganui in late 2019, before Robinson trapped Colin de Grandhomme leg-before with the help of the DRS. It was the sort of dismissal that has made his name in county cricket with Sussex: a good length, a bit of nip, a big front pad.
When Mitchell Santner fell tamely to Wood, New Zealand had slipped from 288 for three to 294 for seven — and all without much contribution from Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad. After lunch, when Robinson bounced out Kyle Jamieson, he returned to the long-leg fence at the over’s end to a warm ovation.
One social-media school of thought on Wednesday night was that he did not deserve to be slaughtered for old tweets, however ugly. Was the crowd’s applause in a corner of the Mound Stand a nod in that direction?
Robinson took four wickets from New Zealand’s first innings and ought to have had a five-for
Regardless, Robinson — with the first-day wickets of Tom Latham and Ross Taylor already in the bag — was now on the brink of a five-for on Test debut, a place on the honours board, and thus the kind of cricketing immortality in which Lord’s specialises. He would have made it, too, had Broad, diving to his right at mid-off, held a catchable chance off Tim Southee.
Instead, Joe Root turned to his senior bowlers as England made a hash of taking New Zealand’s last wicket, and Robinson walked off with figures of 28-6-75-4, taking his first-class haul for the summer to 33 wickets at 15 apiece. Between them, Anderson and Broad had two for 162.
If cricket were the only criterion by which history will judge Robinson’s debut, he had got off to a good start.
Robinson showed he could respond to the hellscape of his own making with a show of steel
But for the moment, everything he does on the field feels like an interlude between those tweets and the judgment they will provoke from the ECB.
Root, though, will have noted one thing. It was he who, with head coach Chris Silverwood and the team’s media liaison officer, broke the bad news to Robinson after play ended on Wednesday, and watched a player descend from cloud nine to terra firma in seconds.
But after presiding over a longer-than-usual huddle before play on Thursday as England sought to manage the situation, the captain also saw his debutant respond to a hellscape of his own making with a show of steel.
Test captains prefer making cricketing judgments to moral ones, and Robinson had given him a helping hand. Frankly, it was the least he could do.
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