Phillip Hughes inquest: Day two

By Candace Sutton of

Phillip Hughes, pictured here playing for Australia, died in November 2014 after he was fatally struck by a bouncer playing first-class cricket. Photo / File
Phillip Hughes, pictured here playing for Australia, died in November 2014 after he was fatally struck by a bouncer playing first-class cricket. Photo / File

Australian Test batsman David Warner says Phillip Hughes "wasn't sledged at all" during play on the day he was fatally struck at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

He said he could not recall any incident in which fast bowler Doug Bollinger spoke with Hughes' batting partner and was addressed by the umpires.

But he said it was "probably not uncommon for Doug" to receive a talking to from the umpires.

Dressed in a suit jacket and tie, Warner spoke via video link from South Africa where he has been on a one-day cricket tour with the Australian team.

Speaking at around 7am South African time, Warner seemed in good spirits during his appearance.

He said he didn't recall any sledging in the Sheffield Shield match and hadn't played at that level for some time prior to the day.

"Not that one. I hadn't played one for a while," he said.

"If you want to talk about Test cricket, there is going to be banter, yes.

"Since I played, I haven't heard anything in Sheffield Shield cricket."

Asked whether his "close friend" Hughes had been anxious or uncomfortable when facing short-pitched deliveries, Warner said, "Hard to say, sometimes yes, sometimes no, depends on the day."

He said that he had a conversation with Hughes, a former fellow teammate as well as a friend, on the day but would not say what they talked about.

"I probably can't repeat it in a court room," he said, laughing.

But he said Hughes had been batting comfortably.

"He faced 160 deliveries and he was on 63 at the time," Warner said.

"He was just batting like Phil ... looked well in control of everything he was doing."

Warner said any of the NSW team's tactics about short-pitched deliveries against Phillip Hughes in the post-lunch session before the fatal incident had not been directed at him personally.

"Not as Phillip. We just say bowl and line and length," he said.

But Warner said coming up against Hughes as an opponent "you have your plan how to dismiss him. Get his feet moving and him playing both ends, playing forward".

Warner dismissed suggestions by the Hughes family's lawyer, Greg Melick, that Hughes had been "targeted in an ungentlemanly way".

"I have to disagree," he said.

Hughes' batting partner leaves in tears

Earlier today, Hughes' batting partner on the day denied Bollinger sledged the batsmen or suggested, "I'm going to kill you."

Former South Australian batsman Tom Cooper said, "I'm confident it didn't happen," adding, "It's unlikely that Doug would have said that.

"It's quite personal. It would stick in your mind," Cooper, 29, said in the witness box on the second day of the Sydney inquest into the death of Phillip Hughes.

"Any comments Doug makes are more funny that derogatory," Cooper said, but he agreed with counsel assisting the inquest Kristina Stern, SC, that the alleged sledge was "definitely not funny".

Under questioning by the Hughes family lawyer that he had told Phillip Hughes' brother Jason not long after the fatal incident that Bollinger had made the comment on field, Cooper said that wasn't the case.

"I suggest you actually told Jason those words and you are now denying it?" Greg Melick, SC, put to Cooper.

"No," said Cooper, who reportedly later left the inquest in tears after the tense cross examination.

Cricket Australia match referee manager Simon Taufel told the inquest that he had seen Bollinger say something to Hughes' batting partner Tom Cooper during play.

But he had assessed that the remark was "of a minor nature".

Following Hughes' death, Mr Taufel conducted an investigation into whether the umpires had acted properly in how they controlled the game, and had watched a video of the entire game.

He concluded that the NSW team's leading player David Warner's game plan had been fair, as long as they weren't "bowling dangerous and unfair deliveries".

Warner, who is expected to give evidence on Tuesday afternoon via video link from South Africa, has already given a statement to the inquest.

In the statement, Warner said "the team had developed a plan to get Phil Hughes out and bowl over leg stump to get Phil moving backwards rather than forwards".

Mr Taufel said it was "part of the game" to exploit a player's weaknesses.

He said he found nothing untoward in the fact that 20 out of the day's 23 bouncers on the day had been bowled to Phillip Hughes.

He said increasing frustration by bowlers under a consistent attack of short balls was "part of the game" at a professional level.

"There was nothing to indicate that the umpires should have done anything different on the day," he said.

The blow by a cricket ball which struck and killed Hughes was likened to a "one punch" attack in an alcohol-fuelled fight, but was "extremely rare" in cricket injuries.

Forensic pathologist Professor Johan Deflou told the inquest into Hughes' death heard that Hughes died from a subarachnoid haemorrhage.

But the haemorrhage resulted from a rupture of the vertebral artery caused by the cricket ball striking and making Hughes' head lift and move rapidly.

Professor Deflou said this was similar to a drunk person's head moving - after being punched in a fight - more easily from loss of reflexes due to intoxication.

Hughes, 25, was struck in the neck by a ball while batting for South Australia against NSW in a Sheffield Shield match on November 25, 2014.

Evidence given at the inquest said a ball travelling at 152km/h lifted Hughes' head, violently injuring his vertebral artery.

He died from a subarachnoid haemorrhage in St Vincent's Hospital two days later.

Asked about concerns expressed by the Hughes family at the inquest, which included sledging and the targeting of multiple short-pitched balls by the NSW team against Phillip Hughes, Cooper denied that the play on the day was "ungentlemanly".

"I guess he was targeted," Cooper said. "I wouldn't say in an ungentlemanly way. It wasn't for any other [reason] than to stop the run rate."

Phillip Hughes' parents, Greg and Virginia, and siblings Megan and Jason attended the inquest for the second day on Tuesday.

Cooper said Hughes was well-versed with short ball deliveries and was playing "with ease" on the day he died.

Mr Cooper was asked about comments he had made to Jason Hughes after the tragic incident about the game having "a tough period of play".

But he said he was referring to his own experience of facing his first balls.

"I had just gone in. They always come in pretty hard with a new batsman.

"I personally felt under pressure. It's my job to score runs."

But he denied there was sledging or an excessive number of short balls.

Asked whether on previous times he had played with Phillip Hughes there had been sledging directed at them, Cooper said "yes".

"There's always a few comments on the field to unsettle the batsman from all around the field, even the crowd sometimes," he said.

Cooper said on the afternoon at the SCG before Hughes was fatally struck, his batting partner had been relaxed and "scoring runs at will" when he joined him at the crease.

He described the onslaught by NSW as "absolutely predictable. They behaved as you would expect them to behave.

"There was no big deal."

He described the Sheffield Shield match as "reasonably quiet in terms of sledging".

"It was pretty good. We were on top of the game and everyone was pretty relaxed and going about their business as usual."

Cooper agreed with the Hughes family lawyer that it was possible that Bollinger could have made the "I'm going to kill you remark" and that he did not recall it.

One of the umpires on the field at the November 25 match, Ashley Barrow, described the lack of sledging in the game as "unusual".

Barrow agreed that because he was umpiring at short leg, he would not have been able to hear sledges between the batsmen and bowlers.

But he said the exchanges between the teams' players had been of the "Hi, how are you doing? Good shot" variety.

Mr Barrow said under the rules of umpiring he was entitled to "intervene of our own accord if we think it is outside the spirit of cricket ... if there is a comment of a personal nature towards a batsman".

But he had not done so on the day.


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