The series that has long been described as the ‘Battle for the Ashes’ has now become the war of words.
Australia skipper Michael Clarke reportedly will be fined by the International Cricket Council for using an obscene word while advising England’s Jimmy Anderson to brace himself to have his arm broken by a short ball from Mitchell Johnson as the tense first test came to a climax on Sunday evening.
Reports of the fine emerged Monday, after some players had left Brisbane and after some parting words from Australian opener David Warner.
Australia won the Ashes series opener by 381 runs with a day to spare, ending a run of nine tests without a win in Australian cricket’s longest drought since 1986. It was England’s first loss in a year and came after two batting collapses, with the tourists dismissed for 136 in the first innings and 179 in the second.
And it ended with players trading insults on and off the field.
Warner used a news conference to accuse England batsman Jonathan Trott of being weak and scared of facing short-pitched bowling, and didn’t back down from his provocative remarks as he was getting ready to leave Brisbane.
“I made those comments for a reason,” Warner said. “Look, yesterday, the bounce and pace got to them again.
“It’s Ashes cricket. Probably went a little bit too far with the comments, but it’s cricket and now it’s in the back of their mind.”
England captain Alastair Cook said he didn’t mind the on-field banter, but thought Warner was being disrespectful for taking it off the field. There’s been speculation ever since he made that comments that Warner would be censured by the ICC, but there was no action taken immediately in the wake of the match.
Clarke claimed that nothing said on the field was anything worse than he’d heard, or had been directed at him, in international cricket. Australia coach Darren Lehmann said banter was usual for the Ashes.
“It will be always hard fought between Australia and England,” Lehmann said. “It certainly was in England, and has been over the years. The ICC deals with everything else and if (players) cross the line, they will deal with it.”
Lehmann said he encouraged the Australians to play “hard cricket.”
“I like our boys being aggressive without crossing the line,” he said, adding that Warner “is the x factor and he has an opinion.”
“If he has crossed the line, the ICC will deal with it.”
Ex-Australia legspinner Shane Warne, one of the most successful bowlers ever in test cricket, wrote in a British newspaper column that England had “met the school bully and been bashed up in Brisbane.”
“England will say they have been a good side for a long time and this was just a hiccup. But psychological damage has been done in this first test.”
Warne said Warner was “a bit silly” for going public with his criticism of Trott, an opposing player.
“It was an aggressive performance from Australia both with the ball and with a few verbals,” Warne said. “Warner got carried away in the moment when he commented about Trott and the England batsman. He should have kept them to himself.”
As it turns out, Warner didn’t need to turn the blowtorch on his rivals. The British critics heaped scorn on players including Trott and wicketkeeper Matt Prior for the way England performed in the first test.
Former England test batsman and broadcaster Geoffrey Boycott wrote that what he thought of Trott’s dismissal in the second innings wasn’t printable.
England will regroup with a tour match in Alice Springs, the remote Outback town in central Australia, later this week before heading to Adelaide for the second test starting Dec. 5. Cook said his squad would be working on ways to combat the express pace and bounce of Australian speedster Johnson. He also said England would keep faith in the players that have contributed on the team’s long successful run and wouldn’t go into a panic.
Lehmann, meanwhile, has urged his players and the Australian public not to get too carried away with what they saw in Brisbane.
Johnson unsettled the England batsmen with some fast and furious short balls and took nine wickets at a ground where Australia hasn’t lost a test since 1988, and where the bounce in the pitch caught the visitors off guard.
Lehmann played most of his first-class cricket in Adelaide, and knows the conditions will be vastly different in the second test. The low bounce will be more comfortable for the England players.
“The next test is a different kettle of fish,” Lehmann said. “We have some good plans, we like what we are doing but we start from scratch in Adelaide.”
Lehmann rewarded the players who won the first test by confirming the same 12-man squad would prepare for the Adelaide match.