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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 August 2005, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Substitute row mars Ashes series
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport at Trent Bridge

Ricky Ponting trudges off after being run out
2.1b: The umpires shall have discretion, for other wholly acceptable reasons, to allow a substitute for a fielder, or a runner for a batsman, at the start of the match or at any subsequent time
2.2: The opposing captain shall have no right of objection to any player acting as a substitute on the field, nor as to where the substitute shall field. However, no substitute shall act as wicket-keeper

England have not broken any rules in using agile fielding specialists to replace tired fast bowlers during the Ashes series.

But Australia clearly feel that the spirit of the game has been breached by the home side in their use of "12th men".

And when Durham's Gary Pratt, making his seventh appearance as an England fielding substitute, ran Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting out, a simmering pot boiled over.

Whether or not Ponting receives a punishment for his outburst after Pratt swooped from cover and dismissed him with a direct throw, the Aussies feel they have the moral high ground.

"Perhaps in this day of professionalism it's just another way of getting the best out of the resources that are available and within the rules," said senior batsman Justin Langer.

"If England choose to go down that route we can't argue with it because it's within the rules of the game.

"Everyone is looking to find the edge. In a lot of ways it's just how the game's being played and how everyone's going about playing it."

England's fast bowlers regularly leave the field at the end of their spells and return a few minutes later.

They do not stay off for long because rules prevent them bowling again for as long as they are off the field if the period exceeds eight minutes.

Take 10 minutes off, for example, and you must be back for 10 minutes before bowling again.

But after witnessing the policy during July's one-day games, Australia raised it with International Cricket Council match referee Rajan Madugalle, who took no action.

"We just leave it to the match referee. We've got to drink a lot of fluids and at some stage you've got to relieve yourself," said England coach Duncan Fletcher.

It's something in the modern game a lot of sides are doing and it's just going to continue
Duncan Fletcher

Unfortunately for Australia, this was one of the rare occasions when a player really was injured, rather than just needing a toilet break.

Simon Jones suffered an ankle injury, and both the frown and the surgical boot he was sporting after play showed the discomfort was only too real.

It is not just the policy of players coming off the field regularly that rankles, though.

While England can call on the lithe Pratt at a moment's notice, the tourists have been using bowler Jason Gillespie as their main substitute in this match.

And even at home, Australia name a 12-man squad and the man left out of the final XI often carries drinks and fields for the next five days.

"In cricket there are great traditions, particularly Test cricket, and as long as I've played the game the 12th man is usually one of the bowlers," Langer added.

"I think that's where some of the frustration is coming [from]."

Ricky Ponting has words with England fielders after being dismissed
Ricky Ponting has words with England fielders

England changed their methods some years ago to allow discarded squad players to return to county action and pacify the militants in the shires.

But they have used three agile subs already in this match in Pratt, Samit Patel of Notts and Trevor Penney, their 37-year-old specialist fielding coach.

If it lasts until Monday, Paul Collingwood, generally recognised as the best fielder in the country, will join in as well.

"We make sure we try and get someone who's not playing first-class cricket, try and get hold of a county who are having a rest," explained Fletcher.

"But at this time of the season the players also need a rest.

"We've got Trevor Penney here. We'd rather get a youngster we'd like to see but we just weren't able to get anyone at the moment."

If Australia push the matter far enough, they may persuade the ICC to change its rules.

But this issue remains a thorn in the side of an otherwise good-natured series.


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