Australia may have taken a 1-0 Ashes series lead after four days of the opening Test in Brisbane, but comments made by captain Michael Clarke to England bowler Jimmy Anderson in which he told the Lancastrian to "get ready for a broken arm" look set to steal the headlines.
Clarke was overheard making the comments, complete with expletive, to the England No. 11 after Anderson took offence to some of the sledging he was receiving when preparing to face paceman Mitchell Johnson.
Per the Daily Mail's Lawrence Booth, Clarke later defended his comments by saying:
Through my career, there has always been banter on the cricket field—and I cop as much as I give, that's for sure.
That's part and parcel of the game...but all the England players know we certainly respect them, and we understand we have to be at our best to beat them.
I've heard a lot worse said on a cricket field than what the Australia players or the England players said throughout this Test match.
Per the Guardian's Andy Wilson, England captain Alastair Cook raised some concerns about comments made by Australian players to the media during the post-match press conferences.
While he downplayed on-pitch incidents, Cook described comments made by David Warner regarding Jonathan Trott, whose dismissal in the second innings he described as "pretty poor and pretty weak", as disrespectful.
Cook told reporters:
On the pitch it's pretty much a war, isn't it? There are always going to be a few words, and I think that's pretty much how people want to watch cricket being played.
I think the comment by David Warner was pretty disrespectful to any professional cricketer really.
Recent series between the traditional rivals have tended to be played in a positive spirit, with the 2005 Ashes in England seen as a real highlight for the sport in terms of fair play in the heat of battle.
However, controversial decisions in the England-based series earlier this year have led to raised tensions ahead of the current series in Australia. Bowler Stuart Broad, in particular, has been receiving special attention from the Australian fans and media, as described by the Telegraph's Jonathan Liew.
Sledging has always been a part of cricket and is an important piece of the sport's folklore when delivered in particularly comedic fashion. However, it must also be controlled.
Clarke's comments are threatening in nature and, thus, could possibly be worthy of sanction from the ICC. Mental strength is an important part of any batsman's game, but they should not have their safety threatened.
The current Australian setup also faced questions over their conduct in England, when Warner was sent home for punching England batsman Joe Root in a Nottingham bar, as reported by the Telegraph's Nick Britten.
Coach Darren Lehmann was also forced to apologise for a radio interview in which he called on Australian fans to make Broad cry on arrival down under, per BBC Sport.
Australia are renowned for their competitive nature, but they must ensure it is their cricket that makes the headlines for the rest of the series after what has been a positive start on the pitch.
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