A physical confrontation and verbal sparring again marred a tense day yesterday as Australia closed in on victory over England in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide.
Australia’s fearsome fast bowler Mitchell Johnson appeared to brush shoulders with England debutant Ben Stokes, and Matt Prior (31 not out) had a running verbal battle with several Australian players in the day’s final overs.
The Australians are poised for victory and a 2-0 series lead heading into today’s final day, with England hanging on at 247 for six while chasing an improbable target of 531 runs.
Australian skipper Michael Clarke was fined 20 per cent of his match fee for threatening tailender James Anderson with a broken arm in the home team’s 381-run victory in the first Test in Brisbane, which was tarnished by constant sledging as frustrations boiled over.
The insults resurfaced yesterday but players from both sides said the confrontations were unremarkable in the tradition of hard-fought Ashes contests. “I didn’t feel there was anything going on out there,” said Joe Root, who scored a fighting 87 for England.
“You want to play hard cricket and it’s Ashes cricket. You’d expect that. You’d be disappointed if there wasn’t a bit of rivalry and I think it makes entertaining cricket to watch, and it’s certainly good to be involved in that out there in the middle. You know you are in a battle and have got to front up and fight for your country.”
The 22-year-old Root said he expected to be sledged by Australian players and was not put off by the verbal insults and sniping during his four and a half hours at the crease.
“I think they’re just trying to get under my skin and find a way to help get me out. I’d expect any team to do that, not just Australia. It’s good confrontation. I like to get in a battle with opposition.... it’s what Ashes cricket is all about.
“Certainly we had a scrap on. We knew we had to front up today and try and put in a performance and show we were up for a fight. We did that for a certain extent and we’re going to have take that into tomorrow.”
Australia paceman Peter Siddle played down the frayed tempers, which needed the intervention of umpires Marais Erasmus and Kumar Dharmasena at times late in the day. “There wasn’t a lot to it. There’s no more than we’ve ever seen in the history of cricket. Being out there, there’s not much being said at all,” Siddle told reporters.
“The boys are out there, it’s been a long day, it’s been a tough day. Not much to it at all – I’ll just leave it there.” Siddle, who took the prized wicket of Kevin Pietersen for the second time in the Test, said the atmosphere between the players was no different to any Tests he has played.
Siddle has now taken the wicket of Pietersen nine times in Ashes encounters and was delighted to have played his part in Australia’s victory push. “I just love the challenge of bowling against a player of his experience and talent.