Cameron Bancroft was desperate to belong – from the very beginning.
So desperate that in his first Test in November 2017 he set out on a course that, four short months later, would bring him crashing down.
During preparations for the opening Ashes encounter at the Gabba in the summer of 2017-18, Bancroft regaled his new baggy green teammates with a tale about a chance meeting with English wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow. It all went down at the Avenue Bar in Perth just after the English team flew in to begin the tour.
Butt of the joke: Cameron Bancroft (left) tells the story of his encounter with Jonny Bairstow as then skipper Steve Smith enjoys the tale.Credit:AAP
He felt as though, on and off the field, others got away with things he couldn’t. The world was against him.
So, when Bancroft revealed the Bairstow incident, Warner began plotting.
On day four of the first Test, Warner and several teammates gave it to Bairstow about the headbutt – loud enough for stump microphones to hear.
“You shouldn’t headbutt your mates,” Warner barked.
All hell broke loose.
After the Test wrapped up on day five, Bancroft was wheeled out to reveal all about the night in Perth. Nothing about his debut Test, everything about the headbutt.
Another Darren Lehmann management fail.
“For me, it was just really weird,” Bancroft said as skipper Steve Smith sat beside him laughing. “It was so random, I didn't expect it coming. A handshake or a hug is something I would have expected more than a headbutt.
“I don't know Jonny Bairstow, but he says hello to people very differently from most others.”
No one’s laughing now: Cameron Bancroft (left) and Steve Smith during their infamous press conference in Cape Town. Credit:AFP
Warner's new opening partner now wasn't just in the team, he “belonged”.
He gave Warner ammunition to blast the Poms, a reason to thumb his nose at those who say he’s the bad guy; to show there were other bad guys out there. All aided and abetted by team management fostering a culture that was spiralling out of control towards the sandpaper crisis.
By March the following year, Bancroft and Warner would be brought down by events in Cape Town –and they took their skipper with them. Lehmann and CA chief executive James Sutherland followed.
It was no surprise Bancroft succumbed to Warner’s charms in Cape Town, just as he did on his debut at the Gabba.
By Cape Town, a desperate-to-belong Bancroft was playing in his eighth Test. He had not made a century and was averaging 30. He was barely surviving.
It’s harder to drop a guy in the “in club”, the provider of ammunition, the buddy of the strong-willed vice-captain. Bancroft had been afforded more chances than his predecessors, Queenslanders Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns.
So, here we are in an Ashes series in England and Bancroft is the chosen one again. Coach Justin Langer loves him, his fellow Sandgroper. He’s made of the right stuff. He’s a great team man.
Not a happy return: Cameron Bancroft was dismissed cheaply in both innings of the first Test of the Ashes series.Credit:PA
Bancroft supposedly forced his way into the team off the back of “outstanding” county cricket form and a 90 in the intra-team trial.
He's playing division two county cricket for Durham, who sit fifth on the table. He averages 45 this season, 17th best – in division two.
But, bang, he's straight back in ahead of Marcus Harris (six Tests, average 32.7), Burns (16 Tests, average 40.1) and Renshaw (11 Tests average 33.5).
Bancroft’s record doesn't match up with the opportunities he's been given.
Overall in first class cricket, he averages less than 40 in 90 matches.
In the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, his technique was badly exposed, as it was in his first eight Tests when he played with his bat too far away from his pad. He’s learnt nothing during his ban and rehabilitation.
Bancroft either needs to deliver on his promise, or he's gone after the Lord's Test.
Good West Australian he is and all.
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