England crisis over pub headbutt
ENGLAND were in damage control on Sunday night after revelations emerged that star wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow launched an unprovoked headbutt on Australian opener Cameron Bancroft in a Perth nightclub.
Australian players sledged Bairstow over the incident when he came to the crease at the Gabba on Sunday
It's understood the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) spoke with Bairstow on Sunday night after reports surfaced that an altercation had occurred a few weeks ago when England was in WA for a tour match.
Bancroft was at that stage playing for Western Australia and hadn't yet been chosen for Australia.
It's understood Bancroft did not instigate or retaliate to the headbutt and that the two respective groups remained at the Avenue Hotel in Perth after the alleged incident occurred.
The incident was relatively minor and police were not involved.
An ECB spokesman said on Sunday: "At close of play in Brisbane today, we were made aware of allegations of an incident in Perth four weeks ago.
"There has been no report of any incident from the venue, security or police and there was no injury reported.
"Following an initial conversation with Jonny Bairstow tonight we understand the context and will follow up with England players and management after the Brisbane Test."
Australian opener David Warner was famously banned for two matches for a similarly minor confrontation with England player Joe Root at a Birmingham bar four years ago, and the ECB will be under pressure to take heavy action.
With Ben Stokes already under investigation by police for an alleged assault that occurred in Bristol a couple of months ago, England find themselves in absolute turmoil.
ECB chief Andrew Strauss was spotted looking dejected late on Sunday in Brisbane after Bairstow was questioned about the matter.
The matter has not been pursued by Bancroft, but Bairstow was given a big send-off by a couple of Australian players when he departed meekly to virtually end England's hopes of posting a competitive target.
England now find themselves bracing to go down 1-0 and with a huge cloud of controversy hanging over one of their most important players.
Nathan Lyon said in the lead-up to the first Test that Australia wouldn't hold back in sledging their England counterparts.
"There's going to be heated moments ... I'm all for it. There's a line, we'll headbutt the line but we won't go over it," Lyon said.
England were contacted for comment and did not respond.
The ECB decided against imposing an alcohol ban on their players following the Stokes assault allegations, instead trusting players to behave themselves while on tour in Australia.
However, England are now facing a full-blown disciplinary crisis.
It's understood Bancroft only told teammates of the incident in the past few days and has accepted an apology from Bairstow.
The 24-year-old from Perth is keen to avoid getting himself involved given he is currently batting Australia to victory in his debut Test.
England are yet to make a final decision on whether Stokes will tour Australia at a later doubt, although they now have more pressing matters to deal with.