Cricket: Warner punch overshadows no result

By Andrew Alderson in Birmingham

The question hung in the air longer than a Shane Warne leg-spinner. You know it will potentially chainsaw through you, but you've got to try to play it with a straight bat.

After the rain abandoned Champions Trophy match between New Zealand and Australia, stand-in Australian captain George Bailey was asked: "Has captaining Australia in England been everything you'd dreamed it would be?"

It came as an explanation was sought as to why Australian batsman David Warner allegedly threw a punch at his English opposite Joe Root at a pub on Sunday morning and was subsequently dropped from the team to play New Zealand.

Yes, the question was a touch disingenuous but how can you get close to the truth when a media liaison officer stands in front of a predominantly English press corps and asks those present to refrain from asking any questions about the issue of the day.

Warner's behaviour might well be the subject of a code of conduct hearing but, given the incident happened on Sunday morning, it seems lax for no progress to have been made on the matter by Wednesday afternoon when it had been exposed, warts and all, across most sports websites in Britain.

Fortunately Bailey was as professional in front of the media as he was in getting to 55 under pressure with the bat.

He chuckled and said: "It's been busy [as captain in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke] and every day brings something unique, challenging or a bit of both... but I'm pretty keen for Pup [Clarke] to come back as a batsman and a leader. He's made good progress... it looks like we'll have him for our next match."

Bailey defended the team ethos admirably, but it's not hard to imagine shock in the Australian cricketing psyche on the back of Warner's anti-social behaviour, an ODI loss to England, a dismissal for 65 by India in a warm-up match, and all with a five-test Ashes series looming.

He also defended Warner.

"From a team perspective, he took it on the chin, no pun intended, and his attitude around the team today was outstanding.

"I really enjoy playing cricket with him, I love his energy and enthusiasm around the group and the way he plays; I wish I had the talent he does. He's a generous teammate, very giving."

But does he have a short fuse, especially in the wake of his well-documented Twitter scrap with a couple of Australian journalists last month?

"Not at all... The situation, believe it or not, was bigger than this. It was about winning this game to stay in the tournament and to play better cricket than we did against England.

"We were pretty happy with today. I thought we had just over a par score on a challenging wicket. We took a couple of early wickets and had good momentum when the rain came."

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum was reluctant to be drawn into the Warner controversy.

"I started hearing a whisper last night and this morning but it's really got nothing to do with us. I don't want to speculate on something we don't know anything about.

"Australia were going to be a good team regardless of whether Dave Warner was opening the batting.

"We've had some issues in the past and it's never great but it depends on how good your team spirit and structure is to fight your way through it. Sometimes things like that can galvanise a unit as well."

McCullum was circumspect on their performance.

"We didn't execute as well as what we could have. It was an okay job with the ball and, with two good batsmen [Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor] at the crease, we'd started to form a partnership we were hopeful would give us a chance."

- NZ Herald

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