Cameron Bancroft: alleged Jonny Bairstow head-butt ‘really weird’
Australian batsman says there was ‘no malice’ in Bairstow’s actions in a Perth bar
Jonny Bairstow’s actions have been described as “weird” by Australia opener Cameron Bancroft but the England wicketkeeper was exonerated of any malice following the clash of heads between the two players in a bar four weeks ago that dominated the final day of Australia’s crushing 10-wicket victory in the first Test.
Bairstow bumped heads with Bancroft as a curious form of greeting when the two players met in a bar in Perth at the start of the Ashes tour, with Fox Sports News reporting the “head-butt” after the fourth day of the series opener at the Gabba.
Bancroft, who was not an international cricketer at that stage, fittingly struck the winning runs on his Test debut as Australia chalked of the final 56 runs of their 170 target in Brisbane to go 1-0 up in the series but the subject of his previous meeting with Bairstow dominated the post-match chat.
Speaking after play, Bairstow moved to defuse the situation by saying it had been “blown out of all proportion” and there was “no malice” involved but failed to explain what exactly transpired that evening. Instead it took Bancroft, who announced himself to international cricket with an unbeaten 82, to outline the strange encounter at Perth’s Avenue Bar.
Describing how his Western Australian team and a group of players from the England team crossed paths on a night out, Bancroft said: “I got into a very amicable conversation with Jonny and yeah, he just greeted me with a head-butt, kind of thing. I was expecting a handshake ... it wasn’t the greeting of choice I was expecting.
“That was the way that I took it. There was certainly no malice in his actions and we continued on having very good conversations for the rest of the evening. At the time, he said sorry. For me, it was just really weird. It was so random, I didn’t expect it coming. A handshake or a hug is something I would have expected more than a head-butt.”
Steve Smith, the Australian captain who was named man of the match for his first innings 141 not out, was sat alongside his player and could barely control his hysterics during what will go down as one of the more bizarre press conferences in Ashes history.
However the England head coach, Trevor Bayliss, was less than impressed that such a story had come both the public and team management’s attention, not least given it occured just a month after the arrest of Ben Stokes in Bristol - an issue that still sees the all-rounder grounded at home as he awaits the outcome of a police investigation.
When Bayliss was asked if he now expected England players to be on their best behaviour, he admitted he had expected that already and added that “they would be extra dumb and stupid if it didn’t.” Chiefly his frustration came in the bizarre incident giving the Australian team ammunition on the field and causing a distraction off it.
Mountain out of a molehill
Joe Root, the England captain, described the story as a “mountain out of a molehill” and one that, had it truly been serious, would have come to light much soon rather than after Australia had taken full control of the first Test on day four.
Root said: “It’s obviously disappointing that we have given them something to bring up but it’s come up on the first day Australia have had a good one on the field, four weeks later. Jonny made it very clear that there was no malicious intent. [IT WAS]joshing about, boyish behaviour.”
Bairstow will not be sanctioned by the England and Waes Cricket Board - Andrew Strauss, the team director, is in Brisbane with the players - but the incident did bring back memories of David Warner’s punch on Root in 2013 that saw the Australian opener sit out two Tests. The recipient of the blow on that occasion did not agree the two could be compared however.
Root said: “I can see why people would think that on the surface, from how blown out of proportion it’s been and how it’s been taken. These are two very different instances, and we have to be very careful that we don’t fall into that trap. These two incidents are definitely not the same.”
Warner, who struck an unbeaten 87 as he and Bancroft broke the record for the highest unbroken opening partnership in a successful Test run chase by combing for 173 runs, was keen to keep the issue alive on the field during the fifth day with the stump microphones picking up him telling England’s players that “you shouldn’t head-butt our mates”.
Bairstow was also sledged about the issue during his second innings - a precursor to the story being reported - and seeing a poor shot result from the wicketkeeper on 42 as England collapsed. Smith, whose side now head into Saturday’s day-night second Test in Adelaide in buoyant mood, certainly credited his vice-captain for the dismissal.