Warner, Bancroft reunite in the Top End
Banned batsmen meet up for dinner for first time since leaving Cape Town ahead of matches in Darwin
Andrew Ramsey in Darwin
20 July 2018, 06:45 PM AEST
The greetings that flowed when David Warner and Cameron Bancroft reunited on Thursday afternoon were as warm and welcome as Darwin's mid-year dry season that sees the Top End inundated with frost-bitten southerners.
Four months and a world of hurt since the pair walked out to open Australia's second innings against South Africa at Newlands, the third Test of that seismic series already rendered a sideshow, they caught up for dinner amid the relative anonymity of a shoreside outdoor eatery.
The discretion partly aided by the sunset dress code of jammed-down baseball caps and dark glasses, but more attributable to two central figures from the incident that indelibly changed Australian cricket turning up in a setting more often associated with overseas backpackers and big-game fishers.
But Darwin in July is increasingly synonymous with cricket, due largely to the profile built by the Northern Territory Strike League limited-overs competition which has attracted the sidelined Test opening pair as they continue to build their comebacks from suspension.
And which will see them take the field together for the first time since the Cape Town calamity, albeit on opposing teams, when Bancroft's competition-leading Desert Blaze tackle hot-in-pursuit City Cyclones with Warner among their number for the first time, on Sunday.
Bancroft has been in Darwin since the four-team tournament – a hybrid of T20 and 50-over fixtures fought out across five weekends – began at the start of this month, and has settled comfortably into the laid-back lifestyle of Australia's northernmost capital.
Warner, who recently completed a stint in the Global T20 event staged in the even more unlikely setting of Toronto near the Canada-US border, arrived in Darwin on Thursday having spent a day at home with his family on the way through.
And prior to departing for the Caribbean Premier League T20 competition that begins in three weeks, where he will turn out for the St Lucia Stars alongside former West Indies skipper Darren Sammy, Trinidadian allrounder Kieron Pollard and New Zealand’s Mitch McClenaghan.
While Warner was battling on unpredictable Canadian pitches in his much-publicised first competitive matches since incurring a 12-month suspension for his role in the ball-tampering incident, Bancroft was quietly finding his feet on the steamy expanses of Marrara Oval.
In the T20 component of the Strike League, the opener (whose nine-month suspension will be completed early next year) has posted two 50-plus scores in six matches with a best effort of 78 from 55 balls against Southern Storm a fortnight ago.
The 25-year-old has also added other extracurricular pursuits to the yoga and Spanish lessons he has embraced since his previously singular focus on playing and preparing for cricket was broken by an ill-thought indiscretion at Cape Town.
Earlier this week, he joined long-time friend and Western Australia teammate Will Bosisto on a fishing trip to the normally abundant waters of the Beagle Gulf from where the pair returned empty-handed, but enriched for the experience.
Bancroft and Bosisto were regular opponents during their developmental days in Perth's school and club competitions, and represented Australia at the 2012 ICC under-19 World Cup where Bosisto captained and was named player of the tournament.
Having shared the same quiet, out of town accommodation with Bancroft since they arrived in Darwin last month, he has seen his close cricket colleague exploring life beyond the game that consumed so much of Bancroft's time and boundless energy since adolescence.
"He's really enjoying and experiencing the Darwin lifestyle," Bosisto told cricket.com.au.
"It's a beautiful relaxed way of life - we went fishing the other day, and today we’re driving down towards Berry Springs (south of Darwin).
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"So he's loving the opportunity not only to be back into cricket, but also to see other aspects that I guess he doesn't get to see on the road as a full-time professional.
"It's great living with Cam here, and training with him every day.
"He's a Test cricketer and a very good player obviously, so it’s good getting his thoughts on the game and just talking cricket with him.
"We’re both pretty passionate cricket lovers – cricket snuffs I guess you could call us – so we talk about the game a lot together."
The pair will resume their rivalry from Perth Premier Cricket on Saturday when Bosisto represents the Southern Storm (who are eyeing a late charge into next weekend's final) against Bancroft's Desert Blaze in a 50-over game.
"We played school cricket against each other, we played club cricket against each other, we know each other's games pretty well, from both playing in each other's teams and against each other," Bosisto said.
Playing concurrently and adjacently will be Warner's City Cyclones against the bottom-placed Northern Tide, a line-up that includes Tasmania batter Jake Doran, Victoria quick Jake Reed and Queensland’s Sam Truloff.
On Sunday, Southern Storm and Northern Tide clash at the same time as Bancroft and Warner go head-to-head in a match that also features the Cyclones' aggressive fast bowler Aaron Summers, who is expected to test rival opener Bancroft with the new ball.
The prospect of Australia’s recent Test opening combination back in action, along with an array of exceptional local and interstate talent, has NT Cricket hopeful of a sizeable turnout as the Strike League's popularity grows.
Even though it's competing with the height of Darwin’s social and wedding season - all crammed into the dry months before the rain arrives later in the year - and the biennial, multi-national Pitch Black military training exercise that gets underway next week.
Which will ensure that any on-field hostilities remain clearly in perspective.