Bairstow 'headbutt' allegations 'blown out of proportion' - Strauss

Getting drunk is the best form of team bonding - KP (1:45)

In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Kevin Pietersen says if he was coach he would allow the players freedom to go and 'do what you want, but don't get caught. (1:45)

Andrew Strauss, the England team director, says that allegations that Jonny Bairstow "headbutted" Cameron Bancroft in a bar in Perth last month have been "blown out of all proportion", as the ECB seeks to draw a line under the latest off-field incident to have rocked their Ashes campaign.

The incident is alleged to have occurred in The Avenue bar in Perth almost a month ago after members of the England squad bumped into members of the Western Australia squad by chance during the early weeks of the Ashes campaign.

Bairstow is alleged to have made contact with the side of Bancroft's head and later apologised. Bancroft was not a member of the Australia squad at the time.

Speaking to journalists in Brisbane, Strauss insisted that the incident had occurred out of "playfulness", adding that there was "no malice", and that it had been "blown out of all proportion". There will be a de-brief of players and staff after the Brisbane Test, he added.

There is no police involvement and no official reports were made by anybody involved, including by a member of the ECB security staff who was present throughout in the bar.

England, privately, are adamant that the incident is being deliberately exaggerated to destabilise their squad.

An ECB spokesman said: "At close of play in Brisbane today, we were made aware of allegations of an incident in Perth four weeks ago.

"There has been no report of any incident from the venue, security or police and there was no injury reported.

"Following an initial conversation with Jonny Bairstow tonight we understand the context and will follow up with England players and management after the Brisbane Test."

Bancroft went on to score heavily in first-class cricket following the incident and won a Test debut at the Gabba.

Bairstow was one of those fined and warned about his future conduct by the ECB after accepting a charge of "unprofessional conduct" for his behaviour in Bristol the night that Ben Stokes was arrested for his part in a brawl.

Neither he nor two other players fined - Jake Ball and Liam Plunkett, who is not in the Ashes party - were with Stokes at the time.

The new allegations came to light when Bairstow came out to bat in the second innings of the first Test at the Gabba. While no England player is welcomed to the crease with smiles, Bairstow received a particularly ferocious reception which led to questions being asked as to the motivation.

England will suspect that the sledging, picked up by a stump mic, was a deliberate set-up intended to leak the story.

England initially refused to comment on the validity of the claims, but the ECB has been keenly aware that the behaviour of the squad would be under fierce scrutiny from the moment they set foot in Australia.

It is understood the management only became aware of the allegations during play on the fourth day of the Gabba Test. Strauss was among those who spoke to Bairstow at the close of play.

The claims against Bairstow comes as the police investigation continues into Stokes' actions in Bristol in September.

While England's players decided not to impose an alcohol ban for the Ashes tour, they had agreed their behaviour off the field would be followed closely following the Stokes incident and decided they would not drink in the immediate lead-up to matches.

England's coach, Trevor Bayliss, explained at the time: "The players sat down and had a chat. They are the ones who have come up with this.

"There are no set curfews, they are just sensible rulings. To me, it's what we should have been sticking to anyway as players or people around a professional set-up.

"Not drinking between matches is just sensible. We certainly don't want to keep players in their rooms because it is a long tour. You have to get out and experience what the country you're touring has to offer.

"It's about picking the right time to have a couple of drinks, but knowing to stay away from it if you're preparing for a match."

If there is any truth in the allegations, the consequences could extend well beyond the Ashes tour. If a third England player (after Stokes and Alex Hales) is shown to have been involved in any sort of violent incident while in a social environment, it would raise questions about the culture and management of the England squads.

In particular, it would lead to renewed scrutiny about the leeway given to players and their misuse of such a policy. It would also raise further questions about their use of alcohol and, perhaps, ask questions of both Bayliss and Strauss about their failure to control the players.

It would not be the first time there had been an incident involving England and Australia players in recent years. Four years ago, the attention was on David Warner who was banned after an early morning stand-off with Root in an infamous night at the Walkabout Bar in Birmingham.