CONTROVERSY surrounding Ben Stokes’ alleged off-the-field misdemeanours, Jonny Bairstow’s unconventional method of greeting, and an escalating war of words between cricket’s leading proponents of etymological feuding - the current Ashes series in Australia is developing into a classic.

And thank whichever deity you wish to thank for all of the above because frankly, the actual cricket so far has been dull and uninspiring.

According to a worryingly large amount of the broadcasters and former cricketers who inhabit Punditland, the first three-and-a-half days of the first Test in Brisbane dished up enthralling cricket, before Australia captain Steve Smith took the game away from England with a fine century.

Well, the last bit was accurate. But those first three-and-a-half days? Dour cricket on a tortoise-slow pitch. Yawn.

Praise be then, for the off-field shenanigans, and when is Jonny Bairstow going to get his own chat show? I look forward to his celebrity guests flinching into the studio lights as they receive their host’s customary welcoming headbutt, and I have a list of folk I’d like see invited to share a couch and a blood-staunching handkerchief.

In the meantime however, we must be content with the Smith and Anderson Show and fair play, Steve and Jimmy have got off to a rip-roaring start.

Smith’s guffaws while listening to Bairstow’s ‘victim’ Cameron Bancroft recount the headbutt incident on air have been interpreted by some as ridiculing the England team, and therefore not being the done thing.

However intended, Smith grabbed the attention to far greater effect than most of the cricket at Brisbane, his century aside, and he has also called out Jimmy Anderson for suggesting Australian players’ sledging of their opponents at Brisbane amounted to bullying.

Anderson, he snapped back, is among the game’s biggest sledgers, happy to dish out the epithets to struggling batsmen when he and his fellow bowlers are in the ascendant.

Which begs the question - if the banter in the middle is that good, why not mike everyone up, stick a bad language warning on the screen, and let them get on with it?

It’s bound to be more entertaining than the cricket, after all.