LONDON (AFP) - Australian bowling great Shane Warne has accused England's players of being "smug" during the third Ashes Test and speculated that they are being "arrogant" as a deliberate tactic.
England retained the Ashes after rain forced a draw in the third Test at Old Trafford on Monday, giving the hosts an unassailable 2-0 lead after three matches of the five-Test series.
Warne, Australia's all-time leading wicket-taker, felt the England players' conduct after the game was unedifying, and singled out wicketkeeper Matt Prior and spin bowler Graeme Swann for particular criticism.
"A lot of us reporting and commentating on the game were really taken aback by the way the England players were interviewing and behaving in press conferences and after-match interviews," he wrote in British newspaper the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.
"It has caught the attention of those who report on the game, especially mine.
"Yes, England are a very good cricket team and it is their choice how they convey messages to the press and act on and off the field, and also how they want to represent themselves individually and collectively as a team.
"But to me, there were a few moments at Old Trafford when I thought, 'Hang on, who do you think you are?'
"I saw an interview with (Sky Sports reporter) Ian Ward after day two and he said it had been a tough couple of days for England, which it had been, but Graeme Swann replied, 'No, not really. We will just go out and bat now on this flat Old Trafford wicket'.
"Matt Prior was also very smug in his comments, which leads me to think perhaps it is a conscious effort or direction from (England coach) Andy Flower to be arrogant and dismissive of the opposition.
"Let me tell you this - if you lose respect for the game and the opposition, cricket has a funny way of biting you on the backside."
Warne went on to say that, if Flower did instruct his players to modify their behaviour, it would go against the grain of the players' personalities.
"Maybe Flower wants to create an atmosphere of 'everyone is out to get us'," he added. "He might even think England play better like that. But it is not working."
England and Australia will resume hostilities in the fourth Test in Durham on Friday.