David Warner, Australia’s most controversial cricketer, offered an astonishing assessment of England’s batting prowess as they struggled to save the First Test in Brisbane this morning. Warner suggested that Alastair Cook’s side, who resumed today on 24 for 2 chasing 561, were frightened of Australia’s fast bowlers – an incendiary claim which could set the tone for the Ashes series and will ensure that cordial relations cease.
He was particularly scathing about the tourists’ No 3 batsman, Jonathan Trott, who was out cheaply for the second time in the match to Mitchell Johnson but has a Test average of nearly 50.
“Our bowlers are bowling fast at the moment,” Warner said. “England are on the back foot. It does look like they have scared eyes, and the way Trotty got out was pretty poor and weak. Obviously there is a weakness there and we are on top of it.”
It is almost unprecedented for a professional sportsman to speak of a rival in such terms. In effect, Warner was accusing England’s batsmen of being cowards and castigated Trott’s approach at the crease. “He has also got to get new sledges as well, because they are not working for him at the moment,” Warner said. “He has worked hard in the nets on the short ball. When trying to face a 150kph short ball from Mitchell Johnson, the way to go is not back away.”
In the modern sporting world of anodyne sound-bites, this is not how the practitioners tend to enunciate their sentiments. The usual philosophy is to suggest they are too busy concentrating on their own game.
Perhaps only Warner would have provided such a response, and he had a point. Poor Trott ooked hapless as Johnson bowled short to him at over 90mph, and might have been out twice before he limply pulled another bouncer in the air to be caught.
There is no doubt that Australia have declared a bouncer war and that England are losing it. They cannot reply in kind on the field since they do not possess the pace, but will be aghast at Warner’s harsh analysis.
He was the man who punched Joe Root in a Birmingham bar last summer, but last night at The Gabba, having already scored a brutal 124, he delivered a verbal punch which was much more crushing.
Trott is fighting for his international career after buckling for the second time in the match. He swished at one bouncer, mishooked another into no-man’s-land and finally pulled another tamely in the air to backward square leg. It was a depressing dismissal because it was so predictable.
England have to decide quickly whether to withdraw Trott from the line of fire. They almost certainly will not, partly because of his splendid record, partly because the pitch at Adelaide for the Second Test seems certain to be much less lively. But Warner was right; there is a weakness, though the England dressing-room must be tactful in addressing it. Jimmy Anderson, who toiled away manfully, perhaps wishing he had Johnson’s sheer pace, said: “It is something [Trott] is well aware of. He has worked really hard at it since he came over here. A guy like that does not average 50 in Test cricket because he can’t play the short ball. We know he can.”Reuse content