England v Australia, 2nd Test, Lord's July 15, 2009

Ponting hits back at 'hypocrite' Fletcher

Ricky Ponting has labelled Duncan Fletcher a "hypocrite" after the former England coach's comments that Australia had no right to claim the moral high ground on Spirit of Cricket issues. While Ponting maintained he had not complained excessively about the hosts' "ordinary" time-wasting late on the final day in the drawn Cardiff Test, Andy Flower, the current England mentor, said the captain "made a meal" of the incident.

As England's last two batsmen held on they sent on the 12th man Bilal Shafayat and the physiotherapist Steve McCaig to prevent the visitors from delivering more overs. "[Fletcher] is sort of saying he didn't condone what they did the other day," Ponting said. "It seemed a little bit hypocritical, some of the stuff he had to say."

Fletcher wrote in the Guardian about Ponting putting pressure on the umpires at Sophia Gardens and their sledging. "If any side in the world doesn't play within the spirit of the game it's Ponting's Australians, yet here he is sitting in judgment on England because he's frustrated that his bowlers failed to complete the job," he said. "Ponting getting frustrated - does that remind you of anything?"

Ponting yelled at Fletcher on his way to the dressing room after he was run-out by Gary Pratt, the substitute fielder, at Trent Bridge in 2005. "We are good mates, Duncan and I," Ponting said wryly at Lord's. "I'm not one little bit worried at all about what Duncan has had to say. He is an irrelevant person in my world and probably in the cricketing world right at the moment."

The chapter adds more tension before Thursday's second Test at Lord's, but don't expect any reduction in the number or intensity of exchanges between players. On the final day in Cardiff Kevin Pietersen and Mitchell Johnson argued during the warm-ups and Stuart Broad and Peter Siddle bumped shoulders in the middle before the emotional finish. Siddle also hit Graeme Swann with a series of painful short balls, but Swann responded with an incredibly valuable 31.

"It is not an Ashes series without a few of those [incidents]," England's captain Andrew Strauss said. "As pressure builds, that strains people and once they are put under pressure they react in a number of different ways. One thing which I think is important is that the series continues to be played in a good manner and I certainly think on those first five days, it was played in that manner."

The Australians are often accused of pushing - or breaking - the rules but maintain they adhere to the over-riding Spirit of Cricket and their own stricter code. Steve Waugh has been at Lord's this week and felt neither team was particularly out of order in Cardiff.

Ponting is Waugh's successor and has no problems with the conduct of his team. "I don't think I have ever been pulled up for anything outside of playing within the spirit of the game," Ponting said. "We have always had the finger pointed at us about that sort of stuff. But we never seem to get in too much trouble from the authorities about the spirit of the game."

He said the fall-out from the time wasting had been "overcooked". "There is so much hype around the series that little things like that can turn into really big things," he said. "The entire game, I felt, was played in terrific spirit, it was on for young and old out on the field as we saw with the Siddle and Swann battle. But otherwise it was a great Test match."

In 2005 the Australians were considered too friendly with their opponents and fell to a 2-1 series loss. Strauss said the circumstances and personnel for this contest were different and the dynamic from previous battles had changed. "Players do what feels natural to them," he said.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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