Ahead of the game: Bairstow, Bancroft explain odd greeting
By JOHN PYE
Nov. 27, 2017
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Jonny Bairstow's unorthodox method of greeting Cameron Bancroft in a pub last month overshadowed questions of cricket at the news conferences following Australia's win over England in the Ashes series opener.
Speculation about a head-butting incident emerged when some Australian fielders made a reference to it — picked up on an on-field microphone — in a bid to unsettle England wicketkeeper Bairstow while he was batting on Sunday.
The England Cricket Board confirmed overnight it had asked Bairstow for an explanation. Both sides agreed there was nothing malicious in the incident, and there's unlikely to be any disciplinary action.
Not long after Bancroft scored the winning runs for Australia on Monday, remaining unbeaten on 82, he and Bairstow fronted separate news conferences to outline what happened at the Avenue bar four weeks ago.
Bairstow went first, offering a statement without taking questions.
"It's been blown completely out of proportion," he said. "There was no intent, nor malice about anything during the evening.
"As you could see out there today there was no animosity between myself, Cameron and any other of the Australia players and hopefully now we can swipe this underneath the table."
England coach Trevor Bayliss said there was no aggression in Bairstow's actions, and said he wouldn't even define it as a head butt. England captain Joe Root described the episode as boyish behavior, and said the timing of the revelations may have been a plot to unsettle his team.
Bancroft made his debut for Australia in Brisbane, and the first questions he faced post-game were not about cricket.
"I got into a very amicable conversation with Jonny and he just greeted me with a head butt, kind of thing," Bancroft explained of the night in question. "I was expecting a handshake. It wasn't the greeting of choice that I was expecting.
"There was certainly no malice in his action and we continued on, having very good conversation for the rest of the evening," Bancroft added. "Obviously at the time, he said sorry. For me personally it was just really weird — it was so random and I certainly didn't expect it coming."
Bancroft said he'd have preferred a handshake or a hug, but wasn't knocked over and wasn't particularly upset by the greeting.
"He says hello to people very differently to most others," he said. "I let it go and moved on from it. It was fine."
The Perth incident happened in the wake of a separate episode in September outside a club in Bristol that has resulted in allrounder Ben Stokes missing the start of the Ashes tour. Stokes has remained in England pending a police investigation.
Bayliss said there'd be no disciplinary action against Bairstow, but added that the player group would likely agree to change policies to ensure there's no risk of off-field behavior that puts external pressure on the team.
"Well, that's what I thought after Bristol as well, they would be extra dumb and stupid if it didn't (change), for sure," Bayliss said. "Any team at this level will take any opportunity to get stuck into the opposition.
"If you put yourself into that situation, you're fair game. We've got to be very careful that we don't do that in the future."
Off-field incidents have overshadowed Ashes series in the past, including in the buildup to the 2013 series in England when Australian opener David Warner was banned for test matches following a confrontation with Root in a bar.
Root said there was no comparison between the two episodes. What bothered him most was the opportunity the Bairstow incident gave the media to criticize his England squad, and the advantage that gave the Australians.
"It's come up the first day Australia had a good day on the field four weeks later," Root said. "If it was a big deal, it would have come out a lot earlier. We have to be careful not to make a big deal of something that's not there.
"I think the most important thing is we stay strong and tight as a group of players and that we continue to keep doing the hard work that we have done throughout the whole trip."