The Great Sledge: That effing, blinding, blithering brat
Silent video of spat shows Aussie rules at their finest
Does bad blood go in the hold of an aircraft or can you keep the stuff in your hand luggage?
It’s a pertinent question in the aftermath of the first Test between South Africa and Australia at Kingsmead.
The match was over 17 minutes and 22 balls into the fifth day on Monday when South Africa resumed on 293/9 and Australia won by 118 runs.
And so to St George’s Park where hostilities resume on Friday.
Doubtless the bad blood that first boiled on the field and then boiled over at tea on the fourth day as the players made their way up the stairs to the dressing room will make the journey to Port Elizabeth.
Security camera video shows David Warner having to be physically restrained by his teammates in the throes of a sustained verbal attack, the apparent target of which is Quinton de Kock.It is in its own way impressive that Warner doesn’t trip on a stair as he juggles screaming his head off, gesticulating passionately, looking downward over his teammates’ shoulders, and making halfhearted attempts to push away their hands and arms trying to keep him going up the stairs and away from getting himself into proper trouble.
Matters take a turn for the silly when the travelling circus reaches the landing leading to South Africa’s dressing room door.
Faf du Plessis emerges alarmed and wearing nothing but a towel. Kagiso Rabada, chest puffed, eyes cold with intent, looks like a trigger itching to be squeezed.
Who started it? Depends, of course, on who you ask.
The Australians say things got ugly when De Kock made an unseemly comment about Warner’s wife once the players were off the field.
The South Africans say things were already ugly by then thanks to Warner making unflattering remarks about De Kock’s facial features and his family out on the field.It’s the kind of nonsense a primary school teacher could quell using a loud voice and, if necessary, a well-aimed blackboard duster. But this involved grown men so that wasn’t an option.
Match referee Jeff Crowe has until 3pm on Tuesday to say whether he will take action.
If he doesn’t, International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson has the authority to lay a charge.
Richardson did exactly that in November 2016 during South Africa’s tour to Australia, ensuring that Du Plessis was successfully prosecuted for ball-tampering in the “Mintgate” saga.
The South Africans must tread carefully if they aren’t to have their focus shifted from what this series is about: winning.
They need to remember that the Australians are masters of distracting opponents in creative ways. For instance, the story of England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow’s bizarre but friendly headbutt greeting to Australia opening batsman Cameron Bancroft in a Perth bar last year would have gone unpublished had the Aussie players not made pointed references to the then unexposed incident in close proximity of the stump microphones.
It’s a short leap from there to the ears of the press, and away they go. As they should. There’s no denying that any of the above doesn’t constitute a legitimate story.Better for them that the home side realise that that is what this is all about and resolve to keep their eyes where they should be — on the ball.
Perhaps the South Africans are catching up on how to play this game. Their team management have said they sought out the security camera footage of Warner’s outburst after suspecting that tension was building among the players as they left the field for tea.
So how did that footage, which is meant for private and police use, make it into the public domain?
There was a touch of spin after the match from Du Plessis, who stopped marginally short of blaming the umpires for not telling the Australians to curb their sledging on the field.
The fact that the Aussies are desperate for the stump microphones to be muffled when the ball is dead (which other team takes upon themselves the responsibility of pointing out this unenforcable provision in the ICC guidelines?) tells us plenty.
As with other flavours of nefarious behaviour, it’s only a crime if you get caught. And if there’s no evidence there can’t be a crime.
So it’s ironic, instructive and sadly funny to watch Warner dissolve into a, presumably, effing, blinding, blithering brat on those stairs.
It is those things because the audio on the version of the video posted online has been muted, leaving Warner to thrash away in impotent silence like Charlie Chaplin’s evil twin.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what he was saying?