x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Australia's David 'Rocky' Warner relishing the Ashes crowd taunts

Umpires criticised by English and Australian media for calling off play due to bad light in third Test at Old Trafford.

David Warner has had to cope with the flak he is receiving on the boundary after his punch-up with Joe Root during the Champions Trophy.
David Warner has had to cope with the flak he is receiving on the boundary after his punch-up with Joe Root during the Champions Trophy.

MANCHESTER // Australia's David Warner insists he is relishing the jeers of the Old Trafford crowd that have accompanied his return to Test cricket.

Warner was recalled for the ongoing third Ashes Test against England after missing the first two matches, having being banned from the warm-up games for punching England's Joe Root in a Birmingham bar following a Champions Trophy defeat by Australia's arch-rivals in June.

It was the latest in a series of off-field incidents that have threatened to derail the left-handed batsman's career, including a Twitter spat with two leading Australian cricket reporters and a sledging row when he made 193 for Australia A against South Africa A in Pretoria last month.

"The interaction with the crowd has been fantastic, I just have to smile and take it," Warner said. "Hopefully I can turn them round."

"I'm just enjoying being back in the team. All the misdemeanours are behind me at the moment and I'm just enjoying playing cricket."

Warner made 41 on Sunday before, as if pre-ordained, he was caught by Root after hooking Tim Bresnan.

"Yeah, hooked another one to Rooty. Out of all the people in the field, it was quite comical. I'll probably read it on Twitter a bit later.

"I'm copping a little bit on the [boundary] fence but you've just got to keep smiling, enjoy the crowd and embrace it.

"The crowd have been very vocal – they've been a bit quiet in the morning though, probably hung over from the day before."

Meanwhile Billy Cooper, the trumpet-player of England's Barmy Army supporters group, added to Warner's status as the pantomime villain by playing the theme tune from the boxing movie Rocky when the Australian was on the field.

"I actually liked the trumpeter playing the Rocky theme song. It was actually entertaining for myself. I had a little chuckle.

"It's not every day you walk out on the field and get booed," explained Warner, who also said he had spoken to Root.

"Yeah, Joey. He said to me: 'It's been a long couple of months hasn't it?' and I just turned around and had a little smile.

"I've got a long memory, so it's alright," a laughing Warner said.

However, the 26-year-old Warner insisted he was utterly serious about reviving his Test career and helping Australia end a run of six straight defeats – their worst since 1984 – with victory at Old Trafford where they ended the fourth day on 172 for seven, a lead of 331 runs.

"I just want to get a win on the board for Australia. We've lost six in a row now and hopefully we can start that off tomorrow [Monday] and win the series 3-2.

"I wouldn't say I'm lucky to be playing in this series. I know what I did was a terrible thing. I had to learn my lessons and I've gone away and scored runs and now I'm back here and playing in the third Test."

There was controversy not of Warner's making at Old Trafford on Sunday when the umpires halted play for bad light, despite the floodlights being switched on, even though Australia captain Michael Clarke, who was batting at the time, wanted to stay out in the middle.

England, 2-0 up with three to play, only need a draw in this match to retain the Ashes and a stoppage was far more beneficial to them than Australia.

Prior to the bad light, England had been bowling their overs slowly and Warner said home captain Alastair Cook was risking a ban for time-wasting by the International Cricket Council.

"We knew the bowlers were going to take their time. The decisions they reviewed off me were a massive time-waster.

"The captain suffers from that. He'll miss a game if he's time-wasting or if the overs aren't bowled in the time allocated. That will come back to bite them [England] on the bum."

Criticism of umpires

As Australia's Ashes hopes sink in the Manchester rain, the country's cricket writers on Monday took their frustrations out on the match officials, saying the sport continues to look foolish.

The officials were again at the centre of Ashes controversy when they took the players off for bad light on the fourth day.

Australia, 2-0 down in the five-match series and needing to win this match to stand any chance of regaining the Ashes from England, were 172 for seven in their second innings – a lead of 331 runs – when umpires Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill called a halt before subsequent rain forced play to be abandoned.

"Cricket continues to make a fool of itself," thundered the Daily Telegraph's Malcolm Conn. "It is difficult to know why, if the captain of the batting side wants to continue, the umpires have to intervene? The bad light law must be better implemented."

Richard Hinds, writing for the same newspaper, said the Australians were given no assistance by the home team in attempting to extend play.

"In the latest example of new-fashioned 'English fair play', England first dawdled through its overs and employed a series of stalling tactics, then did its best to cajole the umpires to allow it to leave the field for bad light, having refused to bowl spin at both ends," Hinds contended.

"Under the current regulations, the umpires, not the batsmen, are the sole arbiters of bad light. But England captain Alastair Cook was so eager to get off the ground he almost ripped the light meters out of the umpires' pockets, while Clarke stayed behind to remonstrate with the umpires."

The Australian's Wayne Smith saw the irony in Australia's plight to keep the Ashes series alive.

"Australian fight, English weather. Both had been pretty much conspicuous by their absence during this Ashes series to date and how typical that they would both time their arrival for this critical moment," Smith said.

"Down 2-0 in the five-Test series and facing a seventh straight defeat that would make it officially the equal worst Australian cricket team in history, Michael Clarke's team has dug in bravely at Old Trafford and for the first four days of the Third Test has pretty much dictated terms to England.

"But just when Australia was manoeuvring into position for its final push towards the victory it needs to keep the quest for the Ashes alive, the weather – so benign when England was winning the first two Tests – has suddenly come over all English."

The promotion of Warner to open Australia's second innings at the expense of regular opener Shane Watson was another talking point.

"Whatever has been said about Shane Watson as a Test match batsman, there has never been any doubting his quality as a one-day player," Fairfax Media's Malcolm Knox said.

"So when, in Australia's second innings, a quasi one-day situation required a signature Watson innings, his demotion in the order signalled that something significant was taking place."

Knox said that Watson's replacement as opener by Warner added to the impression of a "political shift".

The Australian's Gideon Haigh said he believed the situation was tailored for Watson to again open the innings.

"The decision to open Australia's second innings with David Warner was described as 'tactical', yet one would have thought this situation made to Watson's measure at the top of the order: the opportunity to approach a Test innings as a one-day scenario, a task at which he excels, with a hard ball on a flat surface.

"As it was, Australia got a bit lost."

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