Sport Cricket Phil Hughes inquest: “Noticeable” increase in short balls confirmed
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Phil Hughes inquest: “Noticeable” increase in short balls confirmed

Phillip Hughes' batting partner Tom Cooper at the inquest in Sydney. Photo: AAP
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Tom Cooper left the inquest into the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes in tears after acknowledging his teammate faced a lot of short balls on the day he died.

Hughes, playing a Sheffield Shield match for South Australia against New South Wales in November 2014, was struck on the neck by a cricket ball.

He collapsed instantly and died two days later after the injury caused a haemorrhage in his brain.

The inquest also heard from Australian vice-captain Dave Warner, who said via video link from South Africa that Hughes made an “error of judgment” on the day he was felled.

Cooper, who was batting with Hughes at the time of the incident – and was also his housemate – was quizzed on day two of the inquest in Sydney on Tuesday.

But while he acknowledged Hughes faced a “noticeable” increase in short-pitched deliveries, he said he was “confident” NSW bowler Doug Bollinger did not say “I’m going to kill you” in the direction of South Australian batsmen on the day.

“If he had said that I would have remembered it,” Cooper said.

“I am confident it didn’t happen.”

phil hughes inquest
Tom Cooper in action for South Australia. Photo: Getty

Cooper was asked if he had discussed the number of short balls with his teammate.

“Yes [we did],” he said.

“He was on top and they were trying to stop him from scoring.”

“Did he express concern to you?,” counsel assisting New South Wales coroner Michael Barnes, Katrina Stern SC, asked.

“No, not at all,” Cooper said.

“He had obviously been batting for quite a while. He was scoring runs at will, pretty much.

“It was obviously a tactic to stop that from happening.

“He handled it with relative ease. There was no worries.

“I guess he was targeted, but I wouldn’t say it was in an ungentlemanly way.

“The tactic was used against him but it wasn’t for any other reason than to stop the run rate.”

Cooper also said that he did not tell Hughes’ brother, Jason, about Bollinger’s alleged comments following the incident – as was suggested by barrister for the Hughes family, Greg Melick SC.

“Mr Cooper, I suggest to you, you told Jason these words and you are now denying them,” Mr Melick said.

“No,” Cooper responded.

Jason Hughes was in court and shook his head during Cooper’s evidence.

phil hughes inquest
David Warner is in South Africa on national duty. Photo: Getty

Cooper then left in tears after he was asked if he had a memory of the day.

“Unfortunately, yes,” he said.

Warner spoke via a video link from Cape Town, where Australia are preparing to play South Africa in a one-day international that begins on Wednesday evening (AEDT).

He said he didn’t hear any sledging and that Hughes, who was his good friend, was playing comfortably during the Sheffield Shield match.

“I don’t think he was anxious,” he said. “I think just on the day it was an error of judgement.”

The inquest has heard the last nine balls delivered to Hughes were all short.

Warner said there was always a general plan to bowl at or over leg stump to move Hughes backward, but that it had not been specifically discussed in the break before Hughes was hit.

Match umpire Mike Graham-Smith said he saw no reason to step in to stop the short-pitched bowling being directed at the batsman on the day – he did not regard the bowling on the day to be unfair or dangerous and he would expect a top-order first-class batsman such as Hughes to have the skill to handle fast short-pitched balls.

He said he didn’t invoke the rule limiting fast short-pitched deliveries, saying that, in his view, they were designed to protect lower order batsmen.

“I have never applied it to top order first-class batsmen,” he said.

Mr Melick said that another player had been hit on the head earlier that day, and asked whether that would have influenced the umpire’s decision to allow the short-pitched bowling to continue.

“No,” Mr Graham-Smith replied.

He said he had no training in first aid or in the use of specific hand signals to call for help, and has not received any training in this since Hughes’ death.

Fellow umpire Ash Barrow said he did not remember any sledging between the two teams during the game either, and the bowling during the match was “not unusual”.

The inquest continues until Friday.

– with ABC

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