Australia captain Smith and debutant opener Cameron Bancroft conducted a slapstick post-match press conference in Brisbane, in which the latter recalled how Jonny Bairstow greeted him with a ‘head-butt’ rather than a handshake when they first met in a Perth bar several weeks earlier.
Australia had already made capital out of Bairstow’s unusual introduction when they ‘sledged’ him about it in England’s second innings, and then were delighted to see the wicketkeeper hole out to third-man and 2017 Yorkshire team-mate Peter Handscomb as the tourists faltered badly at The Gabba.
As the series moves on to Adelaide, where the inaugural day-night Ashes Test will begin on Saturday, Yorkshire’s Root wants to think the best of Smith.
“You look at the pictures from that press conference, and I think it’s very important you’re careful how you interpret that,” he said.
“I’d like to think that Steve has a good amount of humility about him, and that he’s laughing at the scenario and the comments rather than the situation.”
Smith has confirmed publicly he was doing just that, amused by Bancroft’s dry delivery. Sheffield-born Root has also made clear no ‘sledging’ should ever veer towards unacceptable topics or remarks.
He added: “I’d like to think they know when to stop and when too far is too far. If they have gone too far then it says more about them than it does about anything else.”
He is, however, broadly in favour of verbal exchanges as batsmen try to establish themselves in an innings.
“I think there is a place for a bit of banter out on the field, as long as it stays as banter and doesn’t become more than that,” he added. “You want there to be a bit of niggle ... flying around.
“That’s good for the game – it’s good to watch, it’s good to be involved in. It makes for good television.
“But there are certain things people know they should and shouldn’t say on a field, and it’s important both sides - not just one side, both sides - get that right and have enough respect for each other to not overstep any mark.”
England’s response, Root hopes, will be to produce a comeback fuelled by runs and wickets to put the sideshow back in its place.
“I think it’s important we move on really,” he said. “It’s quite an insignificant part of what’s such an important series – the cricket should be the thing that’s the main focal point.
“Our responsibility as players is to make sure that, for the rest of the series, (cricket) is the stuff that’s spoken about – what we do on the field.
“That’s got to be our focus, to come back this week and have that individual performance that Steve had in the first game - and have that effect on the series. If one of us can do that, it should lead to us winning this week.”
Teams for the second Ashes Test, Adelaide, Saturday, December 2, 3.30am (UK time) – England: JE Root (Captain), AN Cook, MD Stoneman, JM Vince, DJ Malan, MM Ali, JM Bairstow (wkt), CR Woakes, JT Ball, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson.
Australia (probable): S Smith (Captain), D Warner, C Bancroft, U Khawaja, P Handscomb, S Marsh, T Paine (wkt), M Starc, P Cummins, N Lyon, J Hazlewood.
Umpires: C Gaffaney (NZ) and A Dar (Pak). Third umpire: M Erasmus (SA). Match referee: R Richardson (WI).