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Sandpaper jokes fall flat in Oval opener

Australians unfazed by banter from England crowd anxious to move on from recent defeat to Scotland

The Australians came expecting a barrage of sandpaper-themed jokes from abrasive English crowds, but a competitive bowling effort in a low-scoring match smoothed over any hostility from the stands at The Oval in the first ODI.

It might have been the closeness of the game which took the edge off the crowd banter as Australia, defending 214, suffered a three-wicket loss.

Or perhaps England fans were wary of giving the Aussies a rough time given their own side's historic defeat to neighbouring Scotland last Sunday was still fresh in the memory.

An online investment broker attempted an ambush marketing tactic, handing out cards to patrons with the number 4 printed on a sandpaper-yellow background to try and kick-start the banter.

That was quickly squashed by the local stewards who confiscated the cards – reportedly in the thousands – and were more concerned with the commercial sensitivities of the associated advertising than any offence the Australian players might have taken.

But several still made it to the terraces and England fans were only too happy to oblige, holding them up in the second innings as the Australian fielders patrolled the outfield turf.

Match wrap: England spin to first ODI win

Darren Lehmann, the former Australia coach, took umbrage on Twitter at the use of sandpaper to try and bait the Australians, but none in the playing group were bothered.

A tabloid newspaper handed out printed cards featuring a cut-out of Steve Smith's sorrowful face from his tearful Sydney Airport press conference at the height of the ball-tampering scandal with the slogan: "We're only here for the tears!"

It failed to hit the mark and was more commonly spotted in trash cans and strewn on the floor than being waved about among the 24,000 strong Oval crowd, who know their cricket well enough to appreciate none of Australia's ODI squad had anything to do with events in Cape Town.

Of Australia's starting XI in this first of five ODIs, only captain Tim Paine and batsman Shaun Marsh were on the field in that Cape Town Test, and Paine has been at the forefront of the movement to turn around Australia's image and reputation, along with new coach Justin Langer.

"I’m pretty lucky being in the middle, I can’t hear anything," said Paine, the Australian wicketkeeper.

"I haven’t spoken to the (other guys) but there wasn’t any talk of copping too much stick out there which is nice.

"Maybe if we win a few games they might (get more vocal)."

There were, of course, plenty of jeers for the Australians as you would expect from an England crowd, but they came for the usual reasons: the odd misfield, a dropped catch by Paine after he had sprinted some 20m and dived full length just to get a glove on it.

The fast bowlers all spent time on the boundary, as did Travis Head, Aaron Finch and substitute fielder D'Arcy Short.

The chant of "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!" was raised from the western terraces late into the match when the crowd had imbibed enough liquid courage but it wasn't picked up with any gusto and quickly subsided.

The Oval was expected to be one of the more vocal England crowds, and the players had spoken about the treatment they might receive, and had prepared themselves accordingly.

The series moves next to Wales for Saturday's second match in Cardiff. Perhaps victory in this opening ODI will give England supporters their voice. 

Qantas tours of England and Zimbabwe

ODI squad: Tim Paine (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Travis Head, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye

England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (injured), David Willey, Chris Woakes (injured), Mark Wood

T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Jack Wildermuth

Qantas Tour of England

June 7: Australia beat Sussex by 57 runs at Hove

June 9: Australia beat Middlesex by 101 runs at Lord's

June 13: England won by three wickets at The Oval

June 16: Second ODI, Cardiff

June 19: Third ODI, Trent Bridge (D/N)

June 21: Fourth ODI, Durham (D/N)

June 24: Fifth ODI, Old Trafford

June 27: Only T20, Edgbaston (D/N)

Qantas T20I tri-series Tour of Zimbabwe

July 1: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan

July 2: Pakistan vs Australia

July 3: Australia vs Zimbabwe

July 4: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan

July 5: Pakistan vs Australia

July 6: Australia vs Zimbabwe

July 8: Final

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