South Africa coach raises stakes in mind games

  • @stephenbrenkley

While England appear to trust that virtue will bring its own reward on their tour of South Africa, the hosts are having a high old time escalating the mischief. If the England coach, Andy Flower, hoped for a moment that his declared intention not to comment on the opposition would persuade his opponents into silence he was wrong. Quite wrong.

Barely had Flower adopted his stance on the moral high ground than his counterpart, Mickey Arthur, was sniping at the position from below. And, it must be said, scoring some direct hits.

Having already advised England that their use of the leg-spinner Adil Rashid was criminal and that they ought to have revised their batting order in the second Twenty20 international, Arthur embellished his candid verbal onslaught yesterday. He feigned shock that one of his players had eaten with England batsman, Jonathan Trott, who was born in South Africa.

"We upped the voltage a couple of days ago," he said. "There was 'hello Trotty' and I saw one of our fast bowlers having lunch with him a couple of days ago. That's all great and they can be good mates, but I thought the series started off a bit too friendly."

Arthur had neither regret nor contrition for expressing his candid views which, although puckish, are clearly designed to have an effect.

"I think it's part of the hurly-burly of international cricket, it's a hard game mentally, the players have to be able to handle that," he said. "We know who we want to target in the England side, we won't make that public but we have analysed them in depth."

Starting tomorrow, with the first one-day international and the real business under way, Arthur will begin to discover if his brand of cod psychology works.