Ashes 2013-14: Fear and loathing in Brisbane shows two teams split by acrimony

 

The Gabba

There is a clear and present danger that the Ashes series may descend into mayhem. The brutal and excellent fast bowling of Australia, led by Mitchell Johnson, has already given the series a physically intimidating dimension but evidence mounts that the teams have a fervent and mutual dislike.

David Warner, the Australia opening batsman, who is no stranger to discord, made a hugely contentious intervention after his wonderful century on Saturday night when he derided England in general and Jonathan Trott in particular. He said: “It does look like they have scared eyes and the way Trotty got out was pretty poor and weak.”

By late on the fourth afternoon yesterday, with Australia on the verge of a momentous victory by 381 runs, the um-pires were forced to intervene in a spat between Michael Clarke, Australia’s captain, and Jimmy Anderson, England’s No 11 batsman. Clarke was picked up on a stump microphone suggesting that Anderson should be looking forward to a broken arm (expletives deleted). George Bailey, the Test debutant and generally deemed one of life’s nice guys, was also animatedly involved from short leg.

Both captains were anxious to separate on-field and off-field outbursts after Australia took a 1-0 lead in the series to present them with a genuine opportunity of securing the Ashes after more than four years. But that cannot conceal the obvious ill will between the players. Put simply, they cannot stand each other.

Cook, conceding that England had been outplayed, said: “I think the comment last night by David Warner was pretty disrespectful to any professional cricketer, really. On the pitch it’s pretty much a war anyway so there’s always going to be a few battles and a few words. That’s the way people want to watch the game being played, tough hard cricket, which on the pitch is fine.”

Cook agreed that the niggle had been aggravated by the frequency of big matches between the sides. Familiarity has bred contempt.

However, Clarke too was eager to allay thinly veiled suggestions that the players would soon be at each others’ throats. It was as if he and Anderson might have been making plans for dinner.

“I don’t think it’s worth getting into what happens on the field,” Clarke said. “There is always banter on the field and especially between Australia and England, two teams that have always played tough, hard-fought cricket.

“I still believe there is a very good mutual respect off the field, certainly from me and the Australia team; we have the ultimate respect for them as a cricket team. I’ve heard a lot worse said on a cricket field than what the Australian players or the English players said throughout this Test match.”

Banter, of course, is in this case a synonym for verbal abuse of the kind that might well lead to you being arrested if delivered in the average market town Saturday night booze-up. But the players have come to expect it and in a way to revel in it.

The idea that much or indeed any of it is laced with humour should be dismissed. A modern sledge is simply an expletive-laden insult, designed, in the phrase of the former Australia captain Steve Waugh, to cause mental disintegration.

In the match at The Gabba it was heightened by the accompaniment of outrageously fast and menacing bowling. Johnson was rightly made man of the match for his nine wickets and 103 runs for once out, but he was not alone. Ryan Harris also worked up a head of steam and meted out the short stuff regularly.

England were unquestionably rattled because they did not know how to cope. Down the years fast, accurate bouncers have tended to have their way. If they could, the tourists would reply in kind. But it seems beyond them. They picked three giant fast bowlers for this tour but they do not have the sheer velocity and awkward angles of Johnson.

There was a certain caginess in Johnson when he was asked about the approach and mindset of England’s batsmen. In short, he was not about to answer if he thought they were frightened. But he was drawn into saying that “as a fast bowler you give a bit of a stare and have a look into the eyes and, I don’t know, there might have been a little bit of fear there maybe”.

A smile played round moustachioed lips when he was asked: “Did you see the scared eyes Davey [Warner] saw?” But he stayed silent for once. His bowling had done the talking. Sitting alongside him, Clarke said: “Good answer, Mitchy, good boy.” But he sounded as if he knew the correct answer.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created