'What is said on the field stays out there'

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The Independent Online

The England wicketkeeper Matt Prior yesterday defended England's use of aggressive tactics - verbal as well as physical - against India as a legitimate means of gaining an advantage, even though they clearly contradict the "spirit of the game" enshrined in the Laws of Cricket.

Prior was embroiled in controversy in the first Test at Lord's over comments made to the Indian batsman Dinesh Karthik and the unpleasant edge to the second Test here threatened to boil over when the tailender Zaheer Khan reacted to another incident involving fielders close to the wicket by waving his bat angrily in the direction of Kevin Pietersen.

On Saturday, the England bowler James Anderson was seen repeatedly to advance well down the pitch in his follow-through, apparently to "sledge" opposing batsmen. He also struck Sachin Tendulkar on the grill of his helmet with a short delivery, although there is no suggestion he was deliberately trying to injure the Indian player.

Yesterday's incident prompted the umpires Simon Taufel and Ian Howell to speak to England's Andrew Strauss - their captain Michael Vaughan was off the field at the time.

Prior, while denying that he believed such behaviour was acceptable, said that teams were within their rights to hunt as a pack and unsettle opponents almost by any means.

"There are a lot of people under a lot of pressure and if you can do anything to get one up on your opponent you are going to try and do that, as long as it is kept within the spirit of the game," he said.

"It is part of the game and if you don't enjoy it you are going to struggle. It is never nice when it is you batting and there are 11 blokes around you giving you a barrage, it can be uncomfortable.

"But it can definitely be used to your advantage. For 11 people to hunt together on the pitch and create an intensity and environment that is uncomfortable for people batting is very important and becomes even more important when it is a flat wicket, or the ball is not swinging, or there is a big partnership, and it is vital in a match that you never let that go.

"I've no idea what was said between players and umpires but if I did know it would stay on the field. It is up to you to make a judgement on what you saw but, from what I saw, nothing went over the line."

Whether it was within the "spirit of the game" is a matter for debate.

According to the Laws, that "spirit" involves "respect for your opponents, your own captain and team, the role of the umpires and the game's traditional values".

It is regarded as against the spirit of the game "to seek to distract an opponent either verbally or by harassment ... under the guise of enthusiasm or the motivation of one's own side."

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