When Graeme Swann and his merry men performed a novel twist on their 'sprinkler' routine on the venerable Oval greensward, it appeared that England's Ashes conquerors had morphed into the national football team circa 1996. Visions of Gazza having some heinous cocktail of spirits squirted down his throat in a Hong Kong 'dentist's chair' squared in sudden symmetry with our cricketers' puerile prank.
Acts of crass delinquency, if we care to be reminded of the rugby players' visit to a dwarf-tossing Queenstown bar, are increasingly infecting our gentlemen sports. To judge by the supposed apology for Sunday night's incident, dismissed by Swann as a "call of nature", the England and Wales Cricket Board is also mirroring football's capacity for insipid PR-speak.
"As a team we pride ourselves on respecting all things cricket," the statement read. Well, besides not respecting the opposition, the pitch, the over rate, or the concept of a batsman walking when he is out, what precisely do this side respect?
It is difficult to conceive an action more inherently disrespectful than one where, after a compelling final day's action, the winners then decide to relieve themselves on the very same patch of grass. In cricket, just as in rugby, the apologists will always advance the tiresome 'boys will be boys' defence. The wisdom prevails that as soon as stumps are drawn, the lads are free to engage in whatever outlandish form of hedonism floats their boat.
Thus do the tales of Ian Botham holding court at the Taj in Mumbai, forcing colleagues to neck king-size shots while quoting passages from the Gideon Bible, or that of David Boon drinking 52 'tinnies' on the flight from Sydney to London in 1989 serve to enrich those players' mystique. Both Botham and Boon, admittedly, tend to pass that popular litmus test of 'guys I wouldn't mind sharing a pint with'.
Urinating on the field of play, however, is the type of low-rent misdemeanour for which even footballers - especially footballers - would rightly be pilloried. Stuart Broad, England's unlikely enfant terrible of this Ashes series, naturally refused to comment on the issue yesterday. He merely spoke vapidly of "the end of the matter", denying he had seen any newspaper headlines on a story that had colonised the agenda for three days.
Normally it is the football players who display this carefully cultivated remoteness, distancing themselves from controversy with a few meaningless banalities. But certain members of our cricket team are a breed apart when it comes to their engagement, or lack of it, with the subject at hand. Kevin Pietersen had just made a beautifully composed century in the third Test at Old Trafford, only to alienate himself all over again with a monosyllabic masterpiece of a press conference.
Does your knee hurt, Kevin? "Sometimes." Will you need a rest at any point? "Nope." There is, of course, a history here. Pietersen, from the moment he lost the England captaincy in 2009, has loathed the press with a level of primal intensity that would make Sir Alex Ferguson's vendettas look like playful badinage.
Given that his advocate-in-chief is that full-time celebrity leech, Piers Morgan, and that KP now only grants interviews to his mates in the sport, he does not exactly strain himself to project a lovable personality. He is the emblem, alas, of a group of young men quite conspicuously unloved. While Alastair Cook's side savour the satisfaction of a 3-0 series win, they ought to reflect upon how their uncompromising, occasionally cynical style of play denies them the acclaim that would otherwise be their due.
The 'spirit of cricket' can be a nebulous concept at the best of times but it refers the notion of giving a little back to the game. This is one department where Cook's men - whether it be Broad's time-wasting at Trent Bridge in taking off his shoe, or the England top order's tactic of killing the match at the Oval with a glacial first-innings run rate - have been falling short all summer long. On scoreline alone, England's class of 2013 should command a place in the Ashes pantheon.
And yet they are garlanded with nothing like the tributes showered upon the victorious teams of 2005 and 2009, when an open-top bus parade brought Trafalgar Square to a standstill or when Vauxhall residents would hang out of their balconies beside the Oval to watch the triumphant denouement.
The latest crop are a hardheaded, ferociously pragmatic bunch, but not in a fashion that redounds to their credit. What they represent, as the 'Splashgate' after-party would illustrate, is just not cricket - or at least not as we would like to recognise it.