Phillip Hughes' batting partner Tom Cooper denied his team-mate and former house-mate was subjected to an "ungentlemanly" number of bouncers on the afternoon he was fatally injured in a Sheffield Shield match, the New South Wales Coronial inquest has heard.
On the day Australia's vice-captain David Warner also gave evidence via video link from Cape Town in South Africa, Cooper was subjected to hard questioning by the Hughes family's legal representative, Greg Melick SC, and left the witness stand in tears.
Apart from the question of how many bouncers Hughes was subjected to before he was struck on the side of the neck by a short ball from Sean Abbott on November 25, 2014, causing the arterial injury that led to his death at St Vincent's Hospital two days later, Cooper was also pressed on a subsequent conversation he had with Hughes' brother Jason.
It is from that exchange that Doug Bollinger's alleged sledge of "I'm going to kill you" was meant to have emerged. However, Cooper was emphatic in his denial of ever having heard or relayed such a phrase. Cooper did acknowledge that Hughes faced a "noticeable" increase in the number of short balls after the lunch break, but did not feel it was an excessive amount.
"Yes, he was on top and they were trying to stop him from scoring," Cooper said under questioning from counsel assisting the coroner, Kristina Stern SC. "He handled it with relative ease. There were 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."
Melick turned his attention to the alleged words used by Bollinger. Cooper said the phrase had not been used. "I'm confident it didn't happen," he said. "If it had of happened I would have remembered it. It's quite personal, it would stick in your mind."
The Melick cross-examination was exceptionally tense, including a refusal from the Coroner, Michael Barnes QC, to subject Cooper to footage of the over leading up to the fatal blow. Cooper recalled speaking to Jason Hughes, and of telling him that it had been "a tough period of play, with plenty of short stuff".
However Cooper strongly denied relaying Bollinger's alleged sledge to Jason Hughes despite repeated questioning by Melick, responding "no", more than once.
The officiating umpires Mike Graham-Smith and Ash Barrow, plus the long-time international umpire and ICC training manager Simon Taufel, were also questioned. Graham-Smith reported that there had been no sledging out of the ordinary during the match, and also that he did not feel the need to caution the NSW bowlers for intimidatory bowling.
Taufel had reviewed footage of the match, and said there had been "nothing to indicate the umpires should have done anything differently on the day".
Warner's evidence, which closed proceedings for the day, focused largely on Hughes' level of comfort against short bowling. "It looked like he was in control of everything he was doing," Warner said of Hughes. "He was playing quite comfortably." Warner added that the ball that struck Hughes had simply done so as the result of an "error of judgement".
The conclusion of Warner's testimony also ended the involvement of players in the inquest. Abbott has not been required to appear. The inquest continues until Friday.