Flower hits back at Ponting in 'time-wasting' row

LONDON: England coach Andy Flower said Australia captain Ricky Ponting had "made a meal" of the closing stages in the drawn first Test as he defended his team against claims of deliberate time-wasting.

Last-wicket duo James Anderson amd Monty Panesar defied Australia for 40 minutes on the final day in Cardiff on Sunday to ensure the team headed here to Lord's, where the second Test starts on Thursday, with the five-match series all square at 0-0.

But there was controversy late on in the final hour when England twice sent their 12th man on in the space of a couple of overs, the second time accompanied by their physiotherapist, in what appeared to be a clear attempt at time-wasting with Australia desperate to get in as many overs as they could.

Ponting labelled England's tactics as "pretty ordinary" after the match but Flower told reporters at Lord's here Tuesday: "He has got his own opinion, and I respect his opinion.

"He is a very good cricketer and has been a very good ambassador for Australia. But in this instance, I think he has made a meal of it."

Flower was adamant England had not engaged in anything underhand and were simply trying to make sure Anderson and Panesar understood they would have to bat time as well as overs.

"I am a little surprised at all the hullabaloo over it, to be honest," Flower said.

"In that last hour of the game, there was no time wasting by us. Never did we consciously try to waste time."

Certainly neither Anderson nor Panesar could be said to have engaged in standard delaying tactics, much though some of their team-mates and England fans might have wished they had during the course of their 69-ball stand.

"Most teams in those situations, you have batsmen talking in the middle for extended periods, knocking down the pitch, changing gloves, getting drinks, which all waste time," Flower said.

"At no stage in the last couple of hours did we do that. The second point, was that there was perceived confusion out there in the middle about what time the game was going to end.

"We needed to get messages out to them to make sure they were clear," said former Zimbabwe batsman Flower. "We have not got walkie-talkies to those guys out there, and the only way to communicate is to send people out. We did that, right at the end.

In the last few years we have got the ICC (International Cricket Council) fair play award twice, which is more than a lot of sides, so let's keep it all in perspective and not deflect attention from a very good rearguard action."

Asked why the 12th man Bilal Shafayat had been sent out twice, Flower said: "There was some confusion towards the end over which message had got to whom, and there was clarification.

"The batsmen were not wasting any time at all. They were very focused on their jobs, and no way were we going to distract them."

Former England coach Duncan Fletcher waded into the row Tuesday by saying Ponting should not accuse anyone else of not playing in the 'spirit of cricket' given the way Australia put pressure on umpires with their aggressive appeals.

"I have not heard them," said Flower when informed of his fellow Zimbabwean's comments.

"Do not nail the England side. There was a slight incident at the end of the game, but in the main it was played in good spirit."

But former England captain Nasser Hussain was unimpressed by England's use of the 12th man, telling the Daily Mail: "It wasn't a street wise move at all, it was village green stuff. It was amateur and embarrassing to watch."