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Game spirit intact as Ashes battle rages

Despite the pressure building up, it would surprise if the archrivals' friendly mood failed to remain intact.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2005 15:45 IST

Not only has the Ashes series been the stage for some thrilling cricket matches, it has also been hailed as a bastion of good sportsmanship.

Players have consistently remarked that the spirit of the game has been outstanding.

When the fifth Test begins at The Oval on Thursday, with England 2-1 up in the series and the Ashes on the line, the players are expected again to handle the tension and endure the hype. One of the most poignant images of that spirit came as England snatched a two-run victory in the second Test at Edgbaston. When Steve Harmison had Michael Kasprowicz caught behind to claim the vital wicket and the win, England allrounder Andrew Flintoff walked straight up to the not-out batsman Brett Lee as he slumped dejectedly on his haunches, and offered a consoling handshake. Earlier, Australia leg spinner Shane Warne had repeatedly called after Flintoff, finally attracting his attention over the din of the crowd, to congratulate him on his knock.

"It's been played in really good spirit," Warne said. "Everybody's clapped everyone's runs, wickets, clapped people off. I think I've been one of the most aggressive players to play. I like throwing the ball at batsmen's heads and things like that all the time and I enjoy that, but you can also play in the right spirit."

The camaraderie has continued off the pitch.

"After every Test match, we've both been celebrating together," Warne said.

"We've been drinking together in the changerooms, whether it be water, or coke or Freddie (Flintoff) opening them with his mouth, the bottles of beer," he added with a grin. "It's just been a fantastic series."

The only blemishes on the benevolent bonds were the fines handed to Australia captain Ricky Ponting and batsman Simon Katich in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.

Ponting lost 75 percent of his match fee for dissent when he unleashed a verbal barrage toward the England dressing room after being run out by a substitute fielder.

The Australians were angered by England's use of reserve fieldsmen, claiming the home side was replacing bowlers just before spells.

Katich was fined 50 percent of his match fee, also for dissent, for apparently arguing with members of the crowd after being ruled out leg before wicket by umpire Aleem Dar.

Despite the pressure ratcheted up for this week's finale, it would surprise if the archrivals' friendly mood failed to remain intact.

First Published: Sep 07, 2005 15:50 IST