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Ponting shrugs off boo-boys

Australia captain Ricky Ponting today said he "loved every minute" of playing in the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston despite being loudly booed as he walked out to bat.

The treatment of Ponting by English crowds at Lord's and in Birmingham this summer has attracted a good deal of negative attention, prompting England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke to write a message in the match programme to fans attending the fourth Test at Headingley this week to show respect to all the players on the field.

However Ponting himself does not seem too concerned by it, describing England's official supporters' group the Barmy Army as "the best sporting crowd in the world" and admitting he was "half-expecting" some heckling as he made his way to the middle.

"There is never anything untoward," he wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.

"It is always good, light-hearted stuff, and when England have a sniff of winning the volume goes up tenfold. They add a lot to the whole experience of the Ashes.

"The Edgbaston crowd were not the first to boo me this summer - but they were the loudest. Which makes sense, because Edgbaston is famous for being the bullring of English cricket.

"Whenever I walk out of the changing rooms I'm half-expecting it. I'm thinking: 'Right, let's get it out of the way, get the booing done, and then I'll start building my innings."

The Daily Telegraph also reported that ECB chairman Clarke will remind spectators in Leeds that Ponting has "earned the respect and courtesy" of the crowd.

Yorkshire chief executive Stewart Regan is also mindful of the need to keep the right balance between supporters having a good time and stopping things getting out of hand, particularly in the notoriously raucous West Stand.

"The reputation that Headingley has got has been built up over many years," he told The Times.

"The West Stand has a reputation as a party area and we've got to break that. We've put together a series of measures to ensure that those people who want to watch the cricket are not disrupted by those who are simply there to have a good time."

Ponting enjoyed a warmer reception last night when he attended a friendly between a Manchester United XI and Altrincham at the Blue Square Premier side's Moss Lane ground.

Altrincham chairman Geoff Goodwin has strong links with the Australian team because he owns the bus company they have used for their last four tours of England.