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Brit press lambast England~~s ~~Perthetic~~ performance

Published: Tuesday, December 19, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London:A "Perthetic" performance by England in the third Test of the Ashes, thereby conceding the historic urn to Australia, was blasted in the British press, most of which called for the resignation of coach Duncan Fletcher.

England, set a near-impossible 557 to win, seemed as if they might make a battle of it on the final day before yet another collapse at the crease, where they lost their last five wickets for just 14 runs.

Australia wound up with a 206-run win on the final day of the third Test, setting off scenes of jubilation at the WACA Ground in Perth.

The Sun tabloid, Britain's best-read daily, led the charges, dubbing the defeat "Perthetic", writing in its match report: "Sorry England surrendered The Ashes in record time yesterday."

It published a top-10 list of why England lost the Ashes, with Flintoff's captaincy, the squad selection, and selection on tour comprising the first three. Only one reason was attributed to the Australians.

"The real story of this series has been an England side with a soft underbelly being crushed by a bunch of rampant and revenge-hungry Aussies," the tabloid said, noting that it would be hard to imagine Fletcher holding on to his job following next April's World Cup.

The Daily Mirror published a photo of a beleaguered England captain Andrew Flintoff walking back to the pavilion after being dismissed on the final day, under the headline: "Dump Dunc".

Inside, it dedicated an entire page to "How Fletcher lost the Ashes".

"England went back to the future in spectacular style to lose the Ashes at the earliest available opportunity and start wild Australian celebrations that made Trafalgar Square in 2005 look like a tea party," the tabloid said.

The Daily Telegraph similarly looked back at England's triumph last year on the cover of its sports section, which featured the text: "England waited 16 years and 15 days to regain the Ashes in the glorious summer of 2005."

"The historic urn was in England's possession for just one year, 96 days and 12 hours."

"Yes, England have been made to look like dingbats but (Australian captain Ricky) Ponting leads a magnificent team."

Inside, Geoffrey Boycott said that Fletcher's run as English coach should end following the World Cup, and suggested that the search for a new coach should begin in the English summer.

Flintoff also bore the brunt of much criticism, with The Guardian's report on the Test reading: "Flintoff for the moment has lost the art of wicket-taking ... while his batting has gone to pot."

Its headline inside the sports section similarly read, "Captain and coach carry the can of sloppy thinking", noting that "the captaincy, at least, must be reconsidered."

The Independent's back page was adorned with a photo of Andrew Symonds carrying Shane Warne after the Ashes were clinched, next to an article under the headline: "Fletcher's job on line after Ashes failure".

"Poor preparation and selection have been cited as two of the principal reasons for England's disappointing show in Australia," the newspaper said.

The Times, meanwhile, reported that England are expected to welcome Michael Vaughan back to the team for the one-day international series in Australia, both as captain and opening batsman.

It noted first that "Duncan Fletcher is a great coach. He has worked sporting miracles for English cricket ... But Fletcher got it wrong in Australia." "Badly wrong."

Aussie media hail Ashes victory: Australian newspapers revelled in Australia's Ashes victory, hailing it as sweet revenge for the shock loss to England last year.

"It's Ours" trumpeted the front page of Sydney's Daily Telegraph, while Melbourne's Herald Sun declared "You Beauty" and said the Ashes were coming home.

The Sydney Morning Herald declared "Now for a 5-0 drubbing" in an ominous warning for a hapless England squad after Australia took an unassailable 3-0 to retain international cricket's oldest prize.

"Sound the trumpets, raise the flags, dust off the gongs and discard the sackcloth: Ricky Ponting's Australians have won back the Ashes and all is right with the world," said the Australian newspaper.

After three convincing Australian victories, The Telegraph lamented the lack of competition from England in an editorial headlined "defeatist tale of dead ducks".

"So much for the idea of a close and hard-fought contest," the editorial said.

"You'd have to say, as sporting slaughters go, this was comprehensive."

The newspaper lashed England batsman Kevin Pietersen over comments penned Saturday, when his side still had a remote chance of salvaging a draw from the third Test in Perth, in which the right-hander regretting losing the series.

Columist Paul Kent said Pietersen's comments showed the difference in mentality between Australia and England.

"Australia plays every ball, and every wicket, like winning matters," he said.

While neutral observers and cricket purists may have been hoping for a close competition, the Herald's John McDonald said Australians wanted their team to go on to complete a 5-0 whitewash and humiliate their bitter rivals.

"Ask any Australian if he or she would prefer to see a close, hard-fought contest or a walkover. When it comes to the Ashes, no Australian victory can be too crushing, no defeat too bitter," he said.

The Australian's Mike Coward said England had underestimated Australia's hurt after losing the Ashes last September and the motivation it gave Ponting's team.

"Not being Australian by birth or inclination, neither England coach Duncan Fletcher nor captain Andrew Flintoff understood the genuine sense of despair the Australians felt at the loss of the little urn that reposes at Lord's," he said.

The Telegraph said the original Ashes urn, currently in Australia for only the second time since 1883, should be housed Down Under while Australia hold the title, rather than residing with the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord's in London.

"The absurdity that denies the Ashes residence in Australia is more infuriating than trying to convince an Englishman to shower daily," it said.

Under the headline "Ricky's Revenge", Melbourne's Age newspaper said the series victory vindicated Ponting, who was heavily criticised after last year's defeat but has performed superbly in the current series.

"He has been the campaign's outstanding figure," it said. "He presided over an incisive performance from a hungry team. He has stood glint-eyed at the crease, alert at slip or silly point, unblinking and composed."

AFP

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