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    McGrath fires first taunt
    By Andrew Ramsey
    May 14, 2003

    AN ANGRY spat between Glenn McGrath and West Indies vice-captain Ramnaresh Sarwan, which was the most heated exchange of an already-fiery Test, was instigated by the Australian paceman.

    While close-up television footage suggested an incensed McGrath angrily confronted Sarwan after the West Indian made comments about McGrath's wife, team sources revealed Sarwan had simply made an ill-judged response to a taunt from McGrath.

    The Australian immediately complained about Sarwan's remarks to veteran English umpire David Shepherd, but match referee Mike Proctor confirmed no reports had been laid.

    McGrath declined to comment on the clash after the fourth's day play in Antigua, although it is understood he cooled down shortly after the altercation and was left feeling sheepish about the ferocity of his outburst.

    The team sources suggested McGrath asked Sarwan a crass question, alluding to the sexual activity of the vice-captain.

    Sarwan responded by saying McGrath should ask his own wife for the answer.

    McGrath then charged at Sarwan and let fly with a string of expletives.

    Sarwan, who helped set his team up for an unlikely shot at victory on the final day with a memorable 105, conveniently claimed he could not recall what was said to spark McGrath's reaction but admitted the incident did not reflect well on either party.

    "It did (get heated). I thought things went a bit overboard but I prefer to leave it on the field," Sarwan said.

    The incident occurred as the West Indies – led by Sarwan and an equally stunning century from Shivnarine Chanderpaul – built some serious momentum in their record last-innings run chase of 418 for victory.

    Before the main clash, the pair traded barbs four overs earlier when McGrath felt Sarwan ran into his path as the 22-year-old from Guyana completed a single.

    As Sarwan and Chanderpaul continued to blaze shots all over the Antigua Recreation Ground in the post-tea session, McGrath completed an over and aimed the crude barb at the new vice-captain.

    But when Sarwan shot back with his retort, McGrath (whose wife Jane was recently diagnosed with secondary cancer in the hip) flew off the handle.

    It is understood Sarwan – who has forged a friendship with a number of Australian players and dined with several (including McGrath) at the teams' hotel several nights earlier – meant no personal slight against Jane McGrath by his off-hand comeback.

    The fact no resentment was felt towards him by the Australian team was illustrated when – on reaching his century – Sarwan's hand was shaken by opponents Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden. He was also congratulated by rival skipper Steve Waugh when dismissed shortly after.

    The Australians are impressed by the competitive and combative manner in which Sarwan plays.

    But the run-in with McGrath coupled with the heroics of Brian Lara – who crashed Stuart MacGill for three straight sixes and was clean bowled attempting a fourth – and the blazing 123-run stand between Sarwan and Chanderpaul, had the local fans in a lather.

    That transformed into a rage when Sarwan – out attempting a pull shot against the second new ball – and the West Indies' only Antiguan Ridley Jacobs were dismissed by consecutive balls by Brett Lee.

    It was Shepherd's poor decision to give Jacobs out caught off a ball which clearly struck him flush on the elbow and ballooned behind the wicket which prompted the packed crowd to shower sections of the ground with glass and plastic bottles.

    Amid scenes all too familiar to the Australians, the game was stopped for five minutes as police moved in and around 50 bottles – including several 750 ml wine and spirits bottles – were removed and the perimeter area rendered safe.

    The sale and possession of glass bottles among spectators is strictly forbidden under the International Cricket Council's conditions for staging international matches.

    But those conditions are routinely flouted at many Caribbean venues and Australian Cricketers Association boss Tim May yesterday sent an urgent memo to West Indian officials demanding security be upgraded for the remainder of the tour.

    The blatant umpiring error and resultant backlash may also convince the ICC as to the value in extending the role of the third umpire to adjudicate in such controversial decisions.

    Amid the drama, Australia produced their worst bowling performance of the tour as the West Indies turned a seemingly hopeless position of 3-74 in pursuit of 418 to 6-371 heading into the final day.

    Seamer Jason Gillespie and leg-spinner Stuart MacGill, having kept a tight rein in the first two sessions, bled runs at the rate of almost six an over after tea.

    Australia's coach John Buchanan said yesterday that not only can his bowlers' mettle be found wanting when they're challenged, the team lose their cool when under pressure as has happened here and in the final Test against England last summer.

    On that occasion, Hayden was fined and team-mate Adam Gilchrist severely reprimanded for disciplinary breaches as they vented their frustrations.

    "I think it's reasonable to suggest at certain stages we do lose our composure," Buchanan said.

    "The reason for our performance is that we are able to withstand any pressure exerted by the opposition and are able to counter that and exert our own pressure and that's why we get the results we do.

    "But at certain stages there are times where we can't be the side we'd like to be 100 per cent of the time."

    McGrath's behaviour yesterday came as no surprise as he has established a reputation for petulance, and has had several brushes with authorities since making his international debut in 1993.

    The most recent came in January last year when he was suspended for one match after showing dissent when given out caught behind in a one-day international against New Zealand at the MCG.

    In 1998, he was handed a four-month suspended fine for aiming a verbal outburst at England tailender Alan Mullally during that year's Boxing Day Test and the following year in Antigua he was severely reprimanded and the previously suspended fine was imposed after he was found guilty of spitting in the direction of West Indian opener Adrian Griffith.

    That report was laid directly with the match referee by Lara.

    Two years ago he was fined 50 per cent of his match fee after being found guilty of using foul language when walking past umpire S K Sharma after being given out lbw during a one-day international against India in Bangalore.

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