Test sides join forces for ICC war of words

Australia and South Africa have rounded on the International Cricket Council for criticising the teams over their verbal jousting before their three-Test series.

Australia's captain, Ricky Ponting, said yesterday that he saw nothing wrong with players engaging in banter, while South Africa's Cricketers' Association said its players had always conducted themselves in line with the spirit of the game.

The ICC has warned players from both sides they risk misconduct charges if they continue the sledging that has dominated the build-up to the first Test starting in Perth on Friday.

The South Africa captain, Graeme Smith, has claimed Australia have lost their edge after the Ashes defeat by England while Shane Warne has said that the tourists will need a psychologist after the series.

"This South African team plays hard and fair and is full of experienced cricketers who have for years conducted themselves in line with the spirit of cricket," said the SACA chief executive, Tony Irish. "Australian players have done likewise. I am amazed that the ICC sees fit to warn players, and even past players, in the media."