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Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 17:53 UK

Ponting plays down crowd antics

Fourth Ashes Test, Headingley: England v Australia
Dates: Friday, 7 August - Tuesday, 11 August Start time: 1100 BST
Coverage: Live Test Match Special commentary (from 1025 BST on day one, 1045 BST on remaining days) on BBC Radio 4 LW, 5 Live sports extra, the Red Button and BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobile phones. Also live on Sky Sports.


Barmy Army best in world - Ponting

Australia captain Ricky Ponting insists he has no problem with the booing he has faced in the Ashes series to date.

Ponting was targeted by sections of the Edgbaston crowd during the third Test and officials have asked for fans to respect the Australians at Headingley.

Heightened security will be in place for Friday's fourth Test in a bid to reduce anti-social behaviour.

"It's no bigger a deal in this series than others I've played. It's part and parcel of what we do," said Ponting.

"It happens everywhere around the world. I've actually really enjoyed the spectator participation in this series.

"The Barmy Army are the best group of supporters in any sport around the world. They come to the cricket to enjoy themselves.


"Sometimes it's small minorities that make days a little disappointing for others and I think that's what it has been right throughout the series so far.

"But these complaints haven't come from the Australian players. The administrators at some of the venues have been disappointed with how some of the crowd have reacted."

England fans were heavily criticised for their conduct during the rain-affected third Ashes Test at Edgbaston, which ended in a draw on Monday, preserving England's 1-0 series lead.

Much of the criticism was levelled at fans who heckled Ponting as he walked out to bat, something that has also occurred at other grounds.

And Ponting confirmed that he was involved in a heated exchange with a fan after being dismissed last Sunday.

"There were some words exchanged," said the 34-year-old. "As it turned out he (the fan) was later thrown out of the ground.

"It's probably a security thing more than anything else. Where we had to walk on and off the pitch there were a lot of spectators too close to us. It was an area exactly where a steward should have been."

Drunken fans have caused problems at Headingley in the past and organisers want to reduce the number of incidents.

I don't think it's malicious... In a way it's probably a sign of respect for him

England captain Andrew Strauss

When England played South Africa last year, 81 people were ejected from the 18,000-capacity ground in three days, prompting Yorkshire County Cricket Club to take action.

They have increased the number of stewards by 20% and more than 300 are now set to be deployed when the Test begins on Friday.

Beer stalls are set to open at 1045 BST and shut for an hour in the afternoon, with organisers maintaining the discretion to extend this closure period.

There will be an alcohol-free, family stand, a number of specially assigned "spotters" at beer stalls around the ground to identify drunken spectators and prevent them purchasing further alcohol, and free water will be readily available at stalls.

Yorkshire will also enforce a ban on musical instruments, meaning Barmy Army trumpet player Bill Cooper will not be permitted to play, while England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke has written a message in the official programme asking fans to respect the Australians, and especially Ponting.

"It's about fans enjoying themselves but respecting others and the game of cricket," a Yorkshire spokesman told BBC Sport.

"We've worked hard with police and advisory groups to see what we're faced with and cut down on crowd problems.

"We've received criticism in the past so you look at what you've done and cut your cloth accordingly."

Australia practice at Headingley
Australia during practice ahead of the fourth Ashes Test at Headingley

The Barmy Army, England's notoriously vocal supporters' group, has insisted its members were not behind the jeering of Ponting.

"We weren't responsible for the booing," said Katy Cooke, general manager of the group. "From what I can gather it was pretty tongue-in-cheek.

"He's one of the best, if not the best, batsmen in the world and if we can get under his skin and stop him concentrating 100% on his batting, then we're doing a service to the England team."

England captain Andrew Strauss admitted he had some sympathy for his opposite number, who appears to have assumed the 'pantomime villain' role during the series.

"I do empathise with him a little bit," Strauss said. "Booing him in those circumstances is probably a little over the mark, but our supporters are generally fantastic.

"There's a little bit of light-hearted ribbing there, and that is the way it should be. It's certainly what we will get in Australia when we go there.

"I don't think it's malicious. It's the way it's construed more than anything. In a way it's probably a sign of respect for him.

"You just don't want to see things develop and get worse and worse to the extent there is genuine abuse there of opposition players.

"No-one wants to see that - but some light-hearted ribbing is obviously both entertaining and quite helpful."

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see also
Australia on top as England slump
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Justin Langer column
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Trott gets surprise England call
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Aussies defy England to earn draw
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Defiant England cling on for draw
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Live cricket on the BBC
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Australia in England 2009
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