Australia batsman David Warner faces ban from Ashes over Joe Root punch
Tourists in crisis as opener looks set to be sent home for bar attack on opponent
David Warner, the maverick Australian batsman, faces banishment from the Ashes squad after punching Joe Root, the rising star of English cricket. The incident in a late-night bar is merely the latest to affect Australia who look increasingly beleaguered with less than a month to go before the start of the Ashes.
It was made clear by the England and Wales Board that Warner had "initiated an unprovoked physical attack on a member of the England team". Although it did not name Root, it quickly became apparent that he was the player approached by Warner in the Walkabout bar in Birmingham early last Sunday morning, hours after England had inflicted a heavy defeat on Australia in the Champions Trophy.
Warner was looking increasingly isolated last night. Given the Australians' previous hard line with miscreants it is difficult to believe that they will not throw the book at a player who only three weeks ago was fined for a breach of the code of behaviour for a series of tweets against a journalist, which were marked by the use of expletives.
Three months ago they dropped four players from a Test match for failing to observe a management request to fill in a form on how they might improve their performances. Throwing a punch in the small hours at a fellow cricketer who is to be your opponent throughout a long year of cricket might be deemed slightly more serious.
Warner was omitted from his team's Champions Trophy match against New Zealand at Edgbaston, two miles from where the incident happened. The game was abandoned after rain halted New Zealand's innings at 51 for 2 in reply to Australia's 243 for 8.
Cricket Australia said he was being stood down after being reported for breaching Article 6 of their code of behaviour, being allegedly involved in a physical altercation. The hearing will be convened as soon as possible.
George Bailey, Australia's stand-in captain, said: "I enjoy playing with [Warner], I love his enthusiasm, his energy and the way he plays. I wish I had his talent." Bailey added he did not think Warner had a short fuse or had crossed the line. In an unfortunate expression he added that Warner had taken the omission "on the chin".
England made it clear that neither Root nor the two players who were with him in the bar, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, faced censure. They were happy after interviewing the players separately and being happy that their reports of what happened matched.
Alastair Cook, England's captain, said: "We're disappointed that it happened but after investigating, we don't believe we've done anything wrong. It's a shame that it has marred what was a very good win for us. But it's time to move on, especially for us, as we've got a very important game to play."
That is against Sri Lanka today and a win will guarantee qualification for the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy. Cook said Root seemed fine, had suffered no physical injury and had practised normally.
The players from the two sides arrived independently at the bar, which is a fairly basic Australian drinking den. Root was wearing a party wig of the type that is in abundance in the establishment. Whether Warner took exception to this may come out in the hearing but he was reported to have approached Root and thrown a punch which landed a glancing blow. At that point, Broad put his arm round Root's shoulders and said it was time to go to bed. Clint McKay, the Australian fast bowler, persuaded Warner to leave. On Sunday morning, it was suggested Root received a call from Warner apologising.
Cook said he had no problems with the players being out so late in the middle of an international tournament. He said: "Yeah, it's not often you get to win international games, and when the schedule allows, as long as it's within certain parameters, which we set as a team. We didn't have training for a couple of days. Clearly, if it's back-to-back games it's different. It's important to let your hair down because to celebrate wins also builds team spirit."
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