Moeen Ali believes the message that England’s off-the-field culture needs to change is getting through to his team-mates “slowly but surely”.
Moeen led his country for the first time in a drawn two-day tour match against a Cricket Australia XI, a low-profile fixture between Ashes Tests which was largely overshadowed by the latest drinking controversy to rock England’s tour.
Lions batsman Ben Duckett was due to open at Richardson Park but was instead left out and suspended after pouring beer over the head of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson late on Thursday night.
Duckett is to remain with the Lions tour of Australia but will play no further part in any remaining matches and has received a final written warning over his conduct.
The 23-year-old batsman also faces the maximum fine ‘allowable for an England Lions player’ to complete his punishment, understood to be £1,500.
Duckett’s prank took place in the same bar where wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow delivered his benign ‘head-butt’ introduction to Australia opener Cameron Bancroft six weeks ago, and at a time when Ben Stokes is still off the tour waiting to hear if he will be charged for his part in a late-night fracas in Bristol back in September.
Moeen, teetotal and a practising Muslim, could be forgiven for feeling a little mystified by events.
He said: “Obviously it’s a shame these things happen ... maybe the culture needs to change now.
“We want cricket to grow for kids, and for families to come and watch, so we have to be on our best behaviour.
“It’s not always easy, and the guys are on tour for a long time and feel like they want to go out ... (but) we have to behave ourselves.”
He urges a more responsible attitude, individually and collectively.
He said: “The off-field behaviour needs to improve, and we all know that. We’re all grown men and should know how to behave.
“Through county cricket all the way up to international cricket, the individual needs to be responsible for his behaviour.
“As cricketers and professionals, the scrutiny that is on us, we have to be careful and behave ourselves.
“I think it’s really important we inspire the younger generation to take up the game. (Otherwise), it could turn them away - and that’s not what we want.”
England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss imposed – and then relaxed – a midnight tour curfew in response to Bairstow’s faux pas, and coach Trevor Bayliss is beyond frustrated at the continued transgressions of some.
Asked if the message is getting through, Moeen said: “Yes ... slowly but surely. It’s not as bad as people make out, but these days people make small things into big things.”
His advice is that it is more than possible to have fun without getting drunk. “We have team gatherings, and I don’t drink and I still enjoy myself as much as anyone else – just without the hangover the next day,” he said.
On the field, England found scant respite on the pitch as they diced with danger and only narrowly dodged adding an embarrassing defeat against a Cricket Australia XI.
For several overs, after CA captain Travis Dean (100) and his opening partner Will Bosisto (50) had racked up a quickfire stand of 152, it appeared Moeen’s second-string team was perhaps literally contriving to lose. The two camps had agreed a victory target of 294 in a minimum 37 overs, following three declarations.
With the CA openers then soon in full flow against an apparently vulnerable attack, it was no foregone conclusion that England would close out at least a stalemate.
Ultimately, the hosts finished a few more big hits short on 269-8 as Moeen persisted with spinners Jack Leach (4-104) and Mason Crane to keep buying wickets.
Another bruising half-century stand between Clint Hinchliffe and Mac Wright kept the chase just about on, but Tom Curran (3-28) had already done just enough to spare further England blushes.
There were two wickets for Mark Wood in CA’s first innings, as he looks to be added to a full Test squad which will return to Ashes action 2-0 down with three to play at the WACA on Thursday.