Twitter scandal wrecks paceman’s Test debut

For Ollie Robinson, the day should have been all about the joy of taking two wickets on his Test debut for England at Lord’s.

Instead, he’ll remember the biggest moment of his cricket career for the wrong reasons.

Soon after stumps on day one of the first Test against New Zealand, the 27-year-old fast bowler was close to tears as he apologised for a string of sexist and racist messages that he posted on Twitter from 2012-14 and which surfaced over social media while the game was being played.

“I deeply regret my actions, and I am ashamed of making such remarks,” Robinson said in a statement he read out firstly to broadcasters and then to other media.

“I was thoughtless and irresponsible, and regardless of my state of mind at the time, my actions were inexcusable.”

The tweets made offensive references to Asian and Muslim people, as well as women. Robinson said the tweets were sent during a tough period in his life after he’d been fired by English county Yorkshire as a teenager.

“I didn’t know they were still there,” he told a news conference. “I just want to apologise to everyone. I regret it hugely.”

The old tweets were shared online while he was on the field at the home of cricket, where he took 2-50 and claimed the wickets of New Zealand batsmen Tom Latham and Ross Taylor.

“Today should be about my efforts on the field and the pride of making my test debut for England, but my thoughtless behavior in the past has tarnished this,” Robinson said.

“Over the past few years, I have worked hard to turn my life around. I have considerably matured as an adult.”

Robinson said he will “continue to educate myself, look for advice and work with the support network that is available to me to learn more about getting better in this area.”

Tom Harrison, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said he did “not have the words to express how disappointed I am that an England men’s player has chosen to write tweets of this nature.”

“Any person reading those words, particularly a woman or person of colour, would take away an image of cricket and cricketers that is completely unacceptable,” Harrison said. “We are better than this.”

England’s players began the day by sharing a so-called “moment of unity” with their New Zealand counterparts, wearing T-shirts designed to show a collective stance against discrimination of all kinds.

“I don’t want something that happened eight years ago diminish the efforts of my teammates and the ECB as they continue to build meaningful action with their comprehensive initiatives and efforts, which I fully endorse and support,” Robinson said.

Harrison said a “full investigation” was underway and that rules were in place to deal with conduct of this nature.

“The emergence of these comments from Ollie’s past reiterates the need for ongoing education and engagement on this issue,” Harrison said.

CONWAY HITS CENTURY ON DEBUT

Devon Conway became just the sixth player to hit a Test century on debut at Lord’s, with the left-handed opener brilliantly anchoring New Zealand to 3-246 against England on day one of the first match of the series Wednesday.

The 29-year-old Conway was unbeaten on 136 to maintain the stunning start to his international career in all formats, making an array of shots, leaving well and showing a compact defense to blunt England’s all-seam attack under blue skies at the home of cricket.

By bringing up his hundred with a clip through square leg for four, the South African-born Conway joined Harry Graham (for Australia in 1893) and Saurav Ganguly (for India in 1996) in being the only non-English batsmen to score a century on Test debut at Lord’s.

Just before stumps, Conway ran for three to surpass Ganguly’s 131, which stood as the highest ever score by a debutant at Lord’s. He is the 11th New Zealand Test debutant to reach three figures.

Conway has already struck knocks of 126 and 72 in his opening three innings in ODIs — all against Bangladesh in March — and averages 59.12 in 11 innings at Twenty20s for New Zealand following his debut in November. He was born and raised in South Africa but moved to New Zealand in 2017 and has since starred for Wellington.

“Getting a Test debut, just a chance to play at this level, was not something I have really thought about,” Conway said. “I’m grateful for the opportunities Wellington have given me back home and also the Black Caps now.

“They have trusted me and given me the opportunity. It’s a very special feeling. I certainly didn’t think about that back in the day when I made that move.”

Henry Nicholls closed the day on 46 not out and was sharing an unbeaten fourth-wicket stand of 132 with Conway, after paceman Ollie Robinson — one of two debutants in the England side — bowled Tom Latham for 23 and trapped Ross Taylor lbw for 14.

In between, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson chopped onto the stumps for 13 off the bowling of James Anderson, who was making his record-tying 161st test appearance for England.

New Zealand is using the series against England as preparation for the inaugural World Test Championship final against India, also being staged in England from June 18-22.

Lord’s welcomed back international cricket for the first time since an Ashes test between England and Australia in 2019, with the capacity limited to 25% during the pandemic.

It was New Zealand’s first return to the famous ground since losing the Cricket World Cup final there in agonising fashion to England in July 2019.

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