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Clarke snaps as frustration takes toll

Tetchy tourists riled by England’s go-slow strategy

Image Credit: AFP
Photo creditPhoto Caption lead inAustralia’s captain Michael Clarke (L) and England’s Kevin Pietersen (R) have words during play on the third day of the fifth Ashes cricket test match between England and Australia at the Oval in London on August 23, 2013.
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Kia Oval: Australia’s frustration at England’s attempt to kill the fifth Investec Ashes Test flared up into a verbal spat between Michael Clarke and Kevin Pietersen on Friday.

The umpires had to step in at one point to calm down the two players after Clarke told Pietersen “nobody likes you”, referring to his split from the England team last year. Pietersen responded by telling Clarke, “You’re the captain and nobody likes you”, a dig at the perceived divisions in the Australian side.

The confrontation sparked life into an attritional day of Test cricket and the flashpoint occurred during a tense passage of play before tea as Australia searched for wickets with the second new ball. England’s run rate slowed to 2.1 runs per over, 24 hours after their over-rate slumped to only 11 per hour as they responded to Australia taking a dominant position in the match.

At one stage, the sellout crowd slow hand-clapped as frustration spread on a ground that has become accustomed in recent years to hosting thrilling finales to Ashes series. Clarke personified his side’s annoyance with England’s go-slow tactics and, desperate for a victory to lift his young side with the return series looming in three months’ time, he resorted to the old-fashioned Australian tactic of sledging the Poms when needing wickets.

Pietersen, who is normally deaf to sledging, was clearly upset by the remarks and the conversations - carried on for several minutes and continued as the two teams left the field for tea. The incident began when Ian Bell joined Pietersen at the crease following the dismissal of Jonathan Trott.

Bell, a strong candidate for Man of the Series, was greeted by a blast from Shane Watson standing next to Clarke at first slip. Watson, clearly emboldened after scoring his first Test century for three years, reportedly told Pietersen he would be batting with a “child” and would have to look after Bell.

Pietersen responded by reminding Watson that Bell had scored three hundreds in the series before asking exactly how many he has made in Test cricket. Watson’s words reveal that Australia still believe Bell is vulnerable to sledging even after his performances in this series.

“If they want to play the way they do, fine. We can’t control it,” said Peter Siddle, the Australia fast bowler. “All we can control is getting six wickets and see where the match ends up. We were just asking them what they were up to, if they were thinking of playing a few strokes or pushing the runs along. It was pretty tame really.”

Siddle said relations between the two sides are “fine” but before this match Darren Lehmann, the Australia coach, said Stuart Broad had been “copping it” all series from his players after the walking incident in the first Test. “Australia are there to win games of cricket and they are going to try everything they can to do that,” said Joe Root, experiencing the Ashes for the first time this summer.

“It is Ashes cricket. You play it hard on the field and hopefully have a beer together at the end of the series. I don’t think any of it is malicious and we will find out at end of series if we can have a beer together.” The incident occurred only 24 hours after Lehmann was fined around 2,000 pounds by the International Cricket Council for his attack on Broad.

Hours after pleading guilty to a level one code of conduct charge after play on Thursday, night Lehmann took to Twitter to taunt England. He apologised to supporters for the over-rate that day when England were bowling, and promised it would be better the following day when his side would be looking to put themselves into a winning position. Lehmann later deleted the tweet.

- The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2013