Cricket: BARMY IRANI!; VB Series, Second Final Australia 2, England 0 Ronnie Unleashes a Rocket as England Lose Their Last Match Down under by Just Five Runs
Byline: Nick Hoult in Melbourne
ENGLAND finally succumbed to the pressure of this Ashes Tour from Hell yesterday when Ronnie Irani was embroiled in a bust-up with a fan at the MCG.
As England slumped to a five-run defeat in the second VB Series final - they've won just once in 20 matches against Aussies on this three-month trip - Irani reacted to sledging from a spectator and at the end of the Aussie innings he squirted water at the offender.
The fan was thrown out by stewards but Irani could still face disciplinary action.
Essex captain Irani has endured a disastrous VB Series, taking just five wickets and scoring a meagre 60 runs from 10 innings.
The return of Andy Flintoff leaves his World Cup place in doubt and the likeable Irani is facing a tense couple of weeks.
But perhaps Irani's outburst epitomises England's new, pre-World Cup fighting spirit.
After being humiliated in the first final last week and with the worries of Zimbabwe weighing them down, England were expected to melt in Melbourne.
But Nasser Hussain's side stood tall in record-breaking temperatures to end a troubled tour on a defiant note.
It took a brilliant final over from Brett Lee to stop one of the great England comebacks.
Before the game it was thought England wanted to be on the next flight home but after confirming they will go straight to South Africa for their World Cup preparations, they showed some steel.
Nasser said: "We deserved something better and I'm very proud of my team after everything they've been through.
"Looking in each player's eyes, I believe every ball meant something to them. For 90 percent of the game we played better than Australia.
"We were one over from beating them and we will not be going into the World Cup thinking we can't do it.
"It just shows what a couple of injuries can do. Given a level playing field, we have a chance of beating Australia."
England will leave for South Africa this week knowing they should have taken the series into a third final.
They needed 12 off the last two overs with two wickets left. There should have been only one winner but Lee is one of the world's most dangerous speed merchants and his final over was too good for England's tail.
With Paul Collingwood stranded at the other end, England needed six off the last over but Andy Caddick was beaten by a fast yorker and James Anderson was run out.
Rookie Anderson looked like a little boy lost as he faced the world's most hostile bowler.
Anderson was given a warning first ball when he played and missed and was short of his ground as keeper Adam Gilchrist shied at the stumps.
The Lancastrian repeated his cock-up next ball and this time Gilchrist made no mistake.
Hussain said: "After Sydney, which was abysmal, to turn it around and play like that makes me believe we are gelling,
"To have our squad back to virtually full strength brought us together."
A super opening spell from Caddick saw the shocked Aussies slump to 56-3 and when Michael Bevan limped off with a groin strain that my threaten his World Cup, England were in charge.
Irani took the first of three wickets when Andy Symonds was bowled through the gate but Brad Hogg and Matty Hayden set about repairing the innings.
Hayden went for 69 but former postman Hogg delivered the perfect innings making an unbeaten 79 in a defendable 229. …