It's silly season in England, apparently

Australia

This series victory was clinched in the most unglamorous way in the Manchester rain. What followed was a subdued wave and grin from the victorious balcony.

It is officially the silly season. England have retained the Ashes after just three matches. This series victory was clinched in the most unglamorous way in the Manchester rain. What followed was a subdued wave and grin from the victorious balcony.

No alcohol was swilled although it appears the England players are partial to a ciggie in the street. Even the normal Jack-in-the-Box, Joe Root, looked restrained. It is uncertain whether Andy Flower had given him a sedative. None of it felt right. The Ashes balloon had popped. Until…

The post-match interviews were conducted in rather low-key style to suit the occasion, but England's general demeanour throughout invoked a paranoid reaction from Shane Warne. He questioned whether the hosts and Graeme Swann in particular were rather uncivil chaps.

Warne suggested: "Matt Prior was also very smug in his comments, which leads me to think perhaps it is a conscious effort or direction from Andy Flower to be arrogant and dismissive of the opposition." According to Warnie, England are way too big for their boots and the scoreline should never be 2-0.

This theme continued down under with the Aussie press, some of whom have no pretensions to objectivity. They were scrabbling around to point the finger at anything from the UK weather to England's time-wasting tactics for dismantling any hopes of a roaring comeback.

<i>The Australian</i>'s Wayne Smith was miffed that Manchester's climate had been so jingoistic: "But just when Australia was maneuvering into position for its final victory push to keep the quest for the Ashes alive, the weather – so benign when England was winning the first two Tests – has suddenly come over all English."

Richard Hinds, writing for the <i>Daily Telegraph</i> was even more transparent about his bitterness. He accused Cook and his men of stalling tactics, dawdling through their overs and not bowling spin from both ends in bad light, thus coercing the umpires into making a decision to leave the field on Sunday.

To compensate for the deflated nature of the next two Tests, we have another 'story' (quite probably fictitious) from an Australian source. Kevin Pietersen has vehemently denied use of silicone tape to prevent hot spot picking up edges on his bat.

Of course, Channel 9's investigation suggests that batsmen from both sides may have been using said tape, but it has been the one and only KP who has had his identity revealed as a possible suspect in this kangaroo court.

This stain virtually guarantees that Pietersen will come out to bat at Chester-le-Street frothing at the mouth and with steam coming out of his ears. It could be a brutal innings. You don't want to make KP angry. He only plays well when he's upset these days. It's hard being him, you know.

To add to this madcap couple of days, Monty Panesar has been downing a few on the South Coast. Panesar, who once said: "I'm a Sikh, which means I don't drink and I'm a vegetarian", was caught urinating on the bouncers at a nightclub in Brighton.

The fully tanked Monty was served a fixed penalty notice after being accosted in a pizza parlour, where he was probably ordering a ham, pepperoni and beef thick crust. Apparently, the spinner was put in an arm lock. The long-term effect on his bowling remains unknown.

What next? An interview with Andrew Flintoff wearing a pair of silly spectacles? Yes. The cricket world has gone mad.

<b>Tim Ellis</b>

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