Ponting hit back at fletcher

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Ashes is over but allegations are still pouring in from all quarters.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting has hit back at England coach Duncan Fletcher’s criticism of Australia’s behaviour during the recent Ashes series.

Fletcher, in his new book, accuses the Australians of verbal abuse, physical intimidation and hypocrisy during England’s 2-1 series win last month.

In his book, “The Coach’s Story”, to be released next week, Fletcher said Australia had been guilty of flouting the spirit of the game and that Ponting and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist had confronted umpires with “overbearing body language”.

Fletcher said Ponting “blew his top” when he smiled at him after he was run out in the fourth Test by Gary Pratt, a crack substitute fielder, who was replacing a bowler.

Ponting, angry with England’s tactics of using specialist fieldsmen as substitutes in the Test matches, said he was disappointed by Fletcher’s latest broadside, suggesting it sounded more like England had lost the Ashes, not won them after 18 years.

“I don’t recall having any of the umpires speak to me or any of the match officials speak to other than that one incident in which I was fined for,” Ponting said.

“We did everything in our power to play the game in the right spirit.

“I think that was pretty evident right through the whole series and we’ve been applauded for the way we played through the series.

“I don’t know if he’s trying to cover his own backside a little bit with a lot of these allegations directed at us now.

“It’s all coming after some allegations were made against him about the way England conducted themselves through the tour. To be honest, I don’t really care.”

Ponting said it was Fletcher’s smile from the England team balcony after he was run out by lively fielder Pratt that incensed him and led to him being fined.

“That was probably what got my back up more than anything was to have their coach standing on the balcony smiling at me once I was dismissed from a Test match,” he said.

“He knew what the whole substitute issue meant to the Australian cricket team after we made a big song and dance about it before the first one-day international was played at the start of the summer.

“We didn’t think it was right. They continued doing it and nothing was done about it.”

Australian opening batsman Matthew Hayden questioned why Fletcher had waited until Ponting and the Australian team were home before firing his salvo.

“He’s a long, long way away isn’t he?” Hayden said. “He’s 22 hours flight away isn’t he?

“We won’t play them for another 18 months and the Australian captain will still be Ricky Ponting and he’s going to have a few more titles under his belt than England I would have thought.”

Australian paceman Glenn McGrath said Fletcher’s accusations of bad sportsmanship were disappointing as the spirit between the two teams had been exceptional throughout the series.

“After every game we went in and had a drink with them and they came in with us and that’s the way it should be played, hard and tough out in the middle,” he said.

“I went up to the rooms after the Trent Bridge match and Duncan was up there, so I didn’t realise there were any problems.”