So this is bromance: how Warner gave game away about Aussie-Pommie rivalry

When he called for all-out war against England in the Ashes build-up, the Australia vice-captain was revealing something about their attitude to Poms that nobody could have anticipated, argues Nigel Henderson.

So now we know the truth.

“Arsewipe” was a term of endearment.

“Mental disintegration” was a minor wind-up meant to be no more psychologically damaging than a game of marbles.

And when Michael Clarke told Jimmy Anderson to “Get ready for a broken arm” it was not an act of virulent aggression but of genuine concern for a fellow professional whose batting limitations meant Mitchell Johnson was a seriously dangerous adversary.

These are the only conclusions you can come to after David Warner’s recent comments in which he seemed to admit that hatred of the Old Enemy – it seems hard to take those words seriously in this context – does not come naturally or spontaneously to him. That Australians actually have to work at it.

“You have to delve and dig deep into yourself to get some hatred about them [the Poms] to get up when you’re out there,” blathered the left-handed opener with typical braggadocio, if not top-class syntax. “You try and get in a battle as quickly as you can. I like to look in the opposition’s eyes and try to work out ‘how can I dislike this player?'”

Really, Reverend?

The Reverend Warner: opening bat really has a cuddly cushion of a soft spot for Poms

While the more sensational media outlets hurried to fill their pages and broadcasts with the news that the Australian vice captain had fired the opening salvo in the pre-Ashes war, they surely missed the big story; that, in reality, the Aussies had owned up to having a great big cuddly cushion of a soft spot for us; that behind the overt snarling, when these two nations take to the cricket field – or indeed, any sporting or competitive arena – it is not in an atmosphere of antipathy but one of mutual, if mildly grudging, appreciation.

The Ashes, it seems, far from resembling the fallout from divorcing spouses, is more like a bromance that dare not speak its name.

This, I can’t help feeling, must be very dispiriting for Cricket Australia. The last thing they need as they attempt to snatch back the Ashes on soil where two of the last three series have resulted in 5-0 whitewashes is poorly-disguised tenderness from the lips of someone whose all-round malignancy they thought they could take for granted.

You need more evidence? Just take Steve Smith’s comments in the wake of Ben Stokes’s arrest over that nightclub incident in Bristol. “I can’t condone his behaviour,” said the man about to take part in his first Ashes as Aussie captain – and that had to be teased out of him.

How mealy-mouthed is that? A fully fired-up Aussie skipper would have raged about it being a “fuck’n disgrace”, would have gestured “bring it on”, or muttered something along the lines of “let’s just see how hard he is when he’s got 90,000 Melburnians screaming up his ass at deep square leg”.

Maybe this was always going to happen once Stokes and Smith ended up in the same IPL squad, sharing the same dressing-room space, breathing the same recycled jet air, but imagine a similar set up based on the seventies or eighties: Ian Chappell would surely have refused the neighbouring peg to Ian Botham and the pair would have sat in opposite corners, looking up occasionally only to raise their lips in a silent sneer at each other. Now that was – and remains – a proper animosity. But a rare one. It’s nothing to do with “culture cringe”, that inferiority Aussies were said to possess over their art, more a recognition of the roots from which they sprang, for good or ill..

Yet this discovery is somewhat discombobulating for us English and may take some time adjusting to.

Unwelcoming Australians

Box jellyfish: one of your less welcoming Australians

We expect Aussies to be as unforgiving and unwelcoming as their flora and fauna. Peer under a log in the English countryside and you might put your back out, do the same in Australia and a taipan’ll spit a gallon of highly toxic venom in your eye. Dip your foot into the sea in England and the worst you’ll suffer is minor frostbite, do it in Australia and the tentacles of a box jellyfish could brush you so painfully that you’ll wail for your fellow beachgoers to piss on your wounds for a week before dumping you in a vat of vinegar. If your vocal muscles haven’t been paralysed.

The bark of a rabid dingo and bite of a Great White: this is the kind of communication we – and England’s cricketers – want, nay demand, from Australians.

The kind, in fact, that I experienced at the MCG after Australia’s victory in the 2006-7 Ashes. Venturing into the gents toilets demoralised as England were dispatched in three days to fall 4-0 behind, I lined up behind a trio of squat Australian supporters in matching yellow singlets, tight green shorts and identical baggy greens. As they attended to their business in the urinal in front of them, one of them spoke up.

“Fuck, it stinks in here,” he said.

One of his friends sniggered and shot back, at the top of his voice: “It must because of all the Pommie c**ts in here.” And they all laughed.

“Yeh,” said the third. “Fuck’n Pommie c**ts.”

“Come on guys,” I said over my shoulder, as I took their place and they sauntered off. “You’ve won; there’s no need for that.”

They stopped. And turned. “It’s a fuck’n Pommie c**t,” one of them said from 12 yards away.

It was time to take a stand. “Come here,” I challenged. “And say that to my face.”

It was as if I had offered them the keys to Lara Bingle’s changing room. The trio strode up to me with wide grins on their faces, waiting until they were less than a foot away from me, chin to chin, before whining in unison: “What you going to do about it, you fuck’n Pommie c**t.”

It wasn’t Eddo Brandes, but I had been well and truly out-sledged.