Jonny Bairstow’s removal of a Just Stop Oil protestor from the field on the first day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s came despite players being advised not to confront pitch invaders.
Three people were arrested after orange powder was thrown on to the outfield.
Of the two protesters that made it on to the field, one was carried away by Bairstow and another stopped by Ben Stokes and David Warner.
“In that instance, we wanted to protect the wicket,” said Warner.
The Australia opener, 36, confirmed that players had been told to stay away from protesters, but with damage to the pitch more likely to cause major disruption in cricket than most other sports, Warner acted to prevent the possibility of a lengthy delay.
“We were told to stand away and be careful,” said Warner. “We know what they are trying to do to the wicket, so for us it was about protecting the wicket and the best interests of what we felt out there.
“I don’t know what that chalk could have done to the wicket, but it would have been a long delay.”
Advice to players had been issued through the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) security channels prior to the match.
Security has been heightened around major cricket matches and England’s team bus was briefly stopped by protesters as the players travelled to the Test against Ireland at Lord’s earlier in June.
For the World Test Championship final between Australia and India at The Oval a reserve pitch was prepared in case the original surface was damaged and there is believed to be a similar contingency in place at Lord’s.
“It’s a touchy situation,” added Warner. “You don’t want to be involved in that. It was quite confronting, because you don’t know what to do.”
Wednesday’s match was only one over old when the protesters entered the field from the Lord’s Grandstand.
Initially confronted by the players, they were also tackled by security staff from the venue and the ECB.
England wicketkeeper Bairstow was cheered by the crowd as he carried one protester from the middle to the boundary edge.
Bairstow then left the field to apparently change his shirt and wicketkeeping gloves as the orange powder, which landed on the square and outfield, had found its way onto his kit.
“If Jonny didn’t do what he did, who knows where the game could be now?,” England pace bowler Josh Tongue told BBC Sport. “It could’ve been called off.
“He’s a bit of a hero!
“My back was turned. I heard Jonny shout and then saw him running after him. I probably wouldn’t have gone towards them, just in case they had anything else on them.”
Australia finished the first day on 339-5 after being asked to bat first, with Steve Smith unbeaten on 85.
Just Stop Oil protesters have disrupted other sporting events this year, including the rugby union Premiership final and the World Snooker Championship.
The environmental protest group is calling for the government to halt all new oil, gas and coal projects.