Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, has called for England supporters to stop their booing of Ricky Ponting when the fourth Test starts at Headingley on Friday. Ponting has become a target of the home fans since Cardiff, when he questioned Andrew Strauss's stalling tactics, and been jeered whenever he walks on to the field.
While Ponting doesn't mind the treatment, Clarke has written in the match programme that Australia's captain has earned the "the respect and courtesy" of the supporters who "may never see his like again". In his column in the Daily Telegraph Ponting said he was "half-expecting" the treatment.
"There is never anything untoward," Ponting said. "It is always good, light-hearted stuff, and when England have a sniff of winning the volume goes up ten-fold. They add a lot to the whole experience of the Ashes."
Ponting received a standing ovation when he passed Allan Border's Australian run-scoring record in Birmingham, but there wasn't much support from the 20,000-plus fans who attended each day. "The Edgbaston crowd were not the first to boo me this summer - but they were the loudest," he said. "Which makes sense, because Edgbaston is famous for being the bullring of English cricket.
"Whenever I walk out of the changing rooms I'm half-expecting it. I'm thinking: 'Right, let's get it out of the way, get the booing done, and then I'll start building my innings.'"
Ponting is the most recognisable face in the regenerating Australian team and the best player, which helps make him a target. Despite Clarke's message, Ponting is unlikely to get much respite in Leeds as Australia aim to level the series with two matches to play.
"The reputation of Headingley has been built up over many years," Stewart Regan, the Yorkshire chief executive, told the Times. "The West Stand has a reputation as a party area and we've got to break that. We've put together a series of measures to ensure that those people who want to watch the cricket are not disrupted by those who are simply there to have a good time."
Security has been increased by 20% at Headingley for the match, with 300 stewards in charge of cutting down the anti-social behaviour. Graham Onions said the players tried not to listen to what was happening in the stands and hoped Ponting would be treated better. "He's one of the best batsmen in the world, if not the best, so I would never boo him," he said. "I have too much respect for him."
Shane Watson, the Australia allrounder, said the banter from the crowd had been "excellent". "I have actually had a lot of laughs and giggles out in the middle, especially during the last Test match," he said. "That's what you expect when you come over here and play in different countries. You expect good fun banter and I think it's been brilliant."