Tempers flare as England held by second-string Victoria

8 December 1998

MELBOURNE, Dec 8 (AFP) - England's Mark Ramprakash and Victoria's Ashley Gilbert squared up to each other Tuesday as England's frustration over a drawn match boiled over here.

The tourists were denied their second victory in a first class game in Australia by just two wickets. Victoria were 245 for eight at stumps as they chased 281 from a minimum 67 overs.

England had declared on their overnight score of 207-5 on the final day of the four-day game.

Gilbert, making his first-class debut, stood toe to toe with Ramprakash in an ugly slanging match that required umpire Terry Prue to run in from square leg to separate them.

England captain Alec Stewart steered Ramprakash back to his position and then brought in four short leg fieldsmen for Dean Headley's next ball to Gilbert.

Tempers had flared when Gilbert evaded a Headley bouncer and then said something to the English paceman that caused Headley to stop walking back to his mark, turn and glare back.

The 5ft 9in Ramprakash then marched up from his fielding position at point to confront the 6ft 10in Gilbert.

England's displeasure at the Victorian tailender was all the more obvious when offspinner Robert Croft delivered a bouncer to Gilbert next over.

Ramprakash's outburst followed a brief slanging match with Gilbert on Monday after the Victorian paceman took the batsman's wicket.

Gilbert and Ramprakash both refused to comment after play. Stewart played down the incident as harmless banter between two competitive cricketers.

The sledging match followed the grim news for England that left-handed batsman Graham Thorpe's injured back had forced him to return home Tuesday night.

Thorpe missed England's seven-wicket defeat in the second Test in Perth and will now be absent for the remainder of the five-match Ashes series and the subsequent triangular one-day tournament.

``It's probably the biggest series England players get to play in, an Ashes series, and one I have enjoyed playing in the past,'' a dejected Thorpe said Tuesday.

``Naturally it's a big disappointment not to be able to take further part in the series.

``You want to play your part in helping your team get back into the series but at the same time you have to accept that when your time is up, it's up.''

Thorpe was England's leading run scorer in the past two Ashes series and had scored 438 runs at an average of 87.6 on this tour.

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