AUSTRALIA’S annus horribilis lurched to a new low yesterday when it emerged batsman David Warner was at risk of being sent home just weeks before the Ashes for punching England’s Joe Root in a pub.
Cricket Australia is investigating the incident, which England chiefs called “an unprovoked physical attack” and is alleged to have taken place in Birmingham during the early hours of Sunday morning.
Warner was stood down for Australia’s Champions Trophy fixture against New Zealand yesterday and it remained unclear last night whether he will be retained for the Ashes, which begins on 10 July.
It is the latest blow to an already beleaguered Australia, who are currently without injured captain Michael Clarke and are considered major underdogs for this year’s back-to-back Ashes series.
The episode is also the third this year to embroil Warner, who was reprimanded in January for refusing to leave the field when given out and then last month fined £3,700 for a foul-mouthed Twitter rant.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said Warner’s actions had “tarnished the whole Australia cricket team”, while current skipper Alastair Cook insisted Root had been the innocent victim of the fracas.
Warner has apologised for the incident, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said, which took place hours after England’s defeat of Australia in a Champions Trophy match at Edgbaston on Saturday.
The 26-year-old is said to have made glancing contact with Root, who was wearing a wig, when the row broke out among players of both teams at the Walkabout bar near Australia’s team hotel.
An ECB statement said: “David Warner initiated an unprovoked physical attack on a member of the England team in a Birmingham bar following England’s 48 run victory over Australia.
“Warner has admitted behaving inappropriately and has since apologised to the player involved who has accepted the apology. Following a full investigation the England team management has concluded that the England player was in no way responsible for nor retaliated to the attack.”
Root, 22, has not pressed charges and was not seriously hurt. He trained yesterday and is expected to face Sri Lanka today.
Cook defended the night out but insisted his players’ behaviour was “vitally important”.
Australia’s dire year has also included a 4-0 Test series whitewash against India in March and making just 65 in a one-day drubbing by the same opponents in Cardiff last week.
“Australia don’t want any incidents that are going to disturb them,” said Vaughan. “However, they had the Michael Clarke issue and now this with Warner. They have problems.”
YEAR TO FORGET FOR AUSTRALIAN CRICKET
David Warner was handed an official reprimand for “showing dissent at an umpire’s decision” when he initially refused to leave the field after being given out lbw during a one day international against Sri Lanka in January
FOUR BANNED IN HOMEWORK ROW
Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson were suspended from playing in the third test against India in March, after failing to complete “homework” set by coach Mickey Arthur to come up with three ideas of how they could improve following a heavy defeat in the second test
WHITEWASHED BY INDIA
India won all four Tests in the March series for the first time in their history, whitewashing Australia. The baggy greens only previous 4-0 whitewash was against South Africa in 1970
CLARKE ON TREATMENT TABLE
Captain Michael Clarke was hospitalized with gastroenteritis in April. He has also suffered hamstring trouble this year, and is currently sidelined with a back injury
WATSON STEPS DOWN
Just a month after being suspended for failing to submit his “homework” Shane Watson stepped down as vice-captain
WARNER FINED FOR TWITTER RANT
David Warner was fined £3,700 in May after posting abusive tweets to journalists, following the publication of a story in the Australian newspaper Courier Mail questioning the integrity of the Indian Premier League, which used a picture of Warner alongside it
LOWEST EVER SCORE POSTED
Australia were bowled out for 65 against India in a 50-over match in Cardiff earlier this month – their record lowest total
WARNER IN BAR BRAWL
David Warner is investigated for an alleged unprovoked attack on England batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham bar