England have issued an official apology after bowler Graeme Swann confessed one or two of his international teammates “might” have relieved themselves on the Oval pitch following the Ashes win over Australia.
UPDATE: Wednesday, August 28, at 8:15 a.m. BST
From the ECB's official website:
The England cricket team would like to state that during our celebrations after winning the Ashes at no time was there any intention to disrespect Surrey CCC, the Oval or anyone else involved in the game we love.
As a team we pride ourselves on respecting all things cricket including the opposition and the grounds we play at. We got carried away amongst the euphoria of winning such a prestigious series and accept that some of our behaviour was inappropriate.
If that has caused any offence to anyone we apologise for that and want to reassure people that it was a simple error of judgement more than anything else.
---End of update---
Swann was among the group celebrations on Sunday following the conclusion to the Ashes series, which was won 3-0 by a dominant England side against Australia. And he admitted to John Etheridge of the Sun (subscription) things may have got out of hand:
We did go out to the middle of the pitch, all the lads, drinking beers, singing a few songs and enjoying each other's company.
I think the call of nature might have come once or twice, but it was nothing untoward. It was midnight, a private celebration in the middle of the pitch and the ground was dark.
Swann’s admission comes after England’s players were reported by Malcolm Conn, who wrote in the Herald Sun:
While the centre of the ground was quite dark, lights were on in the grandstands with dozens of people still cleaning up after a late finish which saw the game go beyond 7.30 p.m.
A number of players including Stuart Broad, Kevin Pietersen and Jimmy Anderson took it in turns urinating on the pitch to the cheers of their teammates. This could be clearly seen from the outside overflow areas of the press box.
Swanny's swan... pic.twitter.com/3SQhGEfGD5— James Anderson (@JimmyAnderson9) August 26, 2013
The actions of England’s players, which reportedly took place as darkness descended on Sunday night, have been labelled “childish” by former Ashes-winning captain Ray Illingworth.
The Oval is viewed as one of the most historic grounds in English cricket, and Illingworth encouraged the ECB to take action against the players involved. Mike Walters and Dean Wilson of the Daily Mirror quoted him as saying the following:
I think it is childish behaviour and it is time they grew up. I think it reflects pretty badly on them, to be honest.
If the ECB, sponsors and other people connected with the game take a dim view of it, the players involved will get what they deserve from the negative publicity.
More than anything, it’s disrespectful to the ground authority. The Oval is the where the Ashes legend was born, it’s a ground with a long history, and players should respect that.
It is just sad they felt the need to do it. I don’t know why and for whatever reason, but I would think they will get a reprimand for it and quite rightly so.
The latest shameful moment for England’s cricket team comes a matter of weeks after Monty Panesar was fined for urinating on bouncers outside of a nightclub.
Should England's players be punished if found guilty?
Boss Andy Flower attempted to deflect talk toward cricketing matters when quizzed about the latest incident, commenting, “Can we talk about the Test series win rather than a ridiculous topic like that”, per Walters and Wilson.
But Surrey chief executive Richard Gould confessed, “We would be disappointed if our pitch was being used in this way”, and former Australian bowler Shane Warne told Nick Hoult of the Daily Telegraph England's behaviour would be difficult to defend should the ECB investigate the matter.
The latest episode sums up an Ashes series that has been full of controversy. Darren Lehmann was recently fined after he called Stuart Broad a “cheat” for refusing to walk, while England players had to defend themselves against allegations that they tampered with their bats.
All ill-feeling between the two sides will now filter into the one-day scene, before the return Ashes series, which begins late November.