Ricky Ponting last night criticised England's apparent time-delaying tactics towards the end of the "great escape draw" here. "It was pretty ordinary," the Australia captain said. "They can play whatever way they want to play but we'll do everything we can to play by the rules and the spirit of the game."
England 12th man Bilal Shafayat went on to the field on two occasions while last pair James Anderson and Monty Panesar were keeping the Australians at bay with their unbroken 69-ball stand, then physio Steve McCaig also made a trip to the middle, even though there was no sign of him being summoned.
Those interruptions may have cost Australia an over or two – and Ponting was clearly not happy. "I don't think it was required," he said. "I think he [Anderson] changed his glove the over before so I don't think it was going to be too sweaty in one over. I'm not sure what the physio was doing out there. I didn't see him call for any physio so as far as I'm concerned it was pretty ordinary actually.
"I think a few of our guys were questioning the umpire and questioning the 12th man as well, but at the end of the day it's not the 12th man's fault. Someone from upstairs is sending him out so I guess that's where it needs to be taken up. There's nothing we can do about it on the ground.
"It lasted for a couple of minutes and I was unhappy about it. But we got them off the ground and I don't want to make that big a deal about it. I'm sure others will be taking it up with the England hierarchy, as they should, but it's not the reason we didn't win. We've got to look at those reasons, not other things."
Asked whether he would be seeking out match referee Jeff Crowe, Ponting said: "I don't think we need to say anything. I think it was a big enough incident on the field [so] someone will say something to him. I won't think about it again."
The England captain, Andrew Strauss, admitted that the 12th man had been sent onto tell Anderson and Panesar that time, rather overs, was a factor because Australia were ahead of the rate. "Then drinks spilt on Jimmy's glove," Strauss said. "When he called up to the dressing room we weren't sure whether he needed the 12th man or the physio."
Told that Ponting was upset by the incident, Strauss commented: "If he is then that's a shame."
England batsman Kevin Pietersen and Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson had clashed even before play began yesterday, exchanging angry words on the outfield. "I think it was just a few guys taking each other's space," Ponting, who was named man of the match for his first innings 150, said. "Mitchell was trying to bowl and Kevin was hitting some balls towards him, tennis balls I think. That's where it all started to get a bit messy. I think they had a few words after that.
"I'm pretty disappointed we didn't win it in the end. We gave ourselves a great opportunity but we just weren't quite good enough to get over the line at the end. But we have proved to ourselves as a group that no matter what happens with the toss, or whatever conditions we are confronted with, we can play a exceptionally high level of Test cricket.
Four years ago, at Old Trafford, it was Australia who anxiously counted down every ball when last pair Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath denied England. On that occasion, the Aussies celebrated as though they had won. Now the boot is on the other foot, although England admitted last night they had got out of jail.
"England can be reasonably happy with what they achieved," said Ponting. "But they have been outplayed for four days so they will have more soul-searching and selection issues to look at than we us We'll take a lot of confidence from this game."