Players clash as tempers fray in third Ashes Test

Perth: England batsman Ian Bell dismissed suggestions verbal jousting between the sides helped fire Australia’s stunning revival on the second day of the third Test at the WACA on Friday.

England, up 1-0 in the series, appeared to have one hand on the Ashes when they dismissed the home side for 268 on the first day, but Mitchell Johnson’s 6-38 led an Australian fightback that saw the hosts end the day 200 runs in front with seven second innings wickets in hand.

There were several heated exchanges during the day, with England’s Matt Prior clashing verbally with Peter Siddle and Australian captain Ricky Ponting after the former claimed his wicket, while Johnson exchanged pleasantries with Kevin Pietersen and James Anderson, both of whom he dismissed.

Johnson said the clashes helped fire up the embattled Australians, saying Pietersen was being a “smart-arse”, but Bell dismissed the claim.

“I didn’t realise it kicked off like that, we thought there was a bit of banter going on,” Bell said.

“I don’t think Johnson was quite in our faces like he thinks he was. We thought it was good banter. It didn’t feel any different out in the middle to me than in the last two Test matches.”

Bell said he noticed Prior’s clash with the Australians, but said the wicketkeeper was simply disappointed at being dismissed and added there was nothing untoward in the exchanges during the day.

“It is an Ashes Test match and both teams are desperate to win,” he said.

“The two umpires did a great job and nothing spilled over at all. It is aggressive Ashes cricket, which is what people want to see. Australia came back hard, which we knew they would.”

Johnson, who was heavily fined after appearing to headbutt New Zealand’s Scott Styris during a heated on-field confrontation earlier this year, said a few taunts from the English got him going.

He admitted the Australians had made a conscious effort to be more “fiery” on the field in this match.

“That is what I guess we have tried to do here, get really involved in the match. But not overstep the line.”

Johnson said Pietersen asked for his phone number.

“I don’t think he was being friendly, no,” he said.

“I think he was being a bit of a smart-arse.”

Johnson said Graeme Swann was England’s best sledger.

“He’s a bit more clever with what he says,” he said.