A crisis meeting of the England squad in Melbourne set in motion a train of events which culminated in Kevin Pietersen having a showdown with Andy Flower that sealed his fate as an international cricketer.
It can be revealed Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, the captain and vice-captain, called an emergency meeting of the players on December 30, which should have been the fifth day of the fourth Test, without the knowledge of the coaching staff. It was agreed a schoolmaster-pupil relationship had developed in which players were relying too heavily on Flower to provide direction.
At the meeting it is understood Pietersen, persuaded of his own interpretation, embarked on an anti-Flower rant. He misjudged the point the other players were trying to make, believing they were accusing the head coach of being overly prescriptive rather than paternalistic. Pietersen (right) was told at the meeting it was not a witch-hunt against Flower, but that players had to take on more responsibility for their actions.
Flower got to hear about it and demanded an explanation. He spoke to Pietersen in his hotel room in Sydney which is when the whole situation, and simmering tension on a losing tour, blew up. Flower then asked other players present at the meeting if it was true that they felt his coaching methods were the problem and was told that was not the case. This all happened around the same time Paul Downton linked up with the squad for the first time in Sydney on New Year's Eve.
When Downton met Flower for his tour debrief, this row hardened attitudes against Pietersen. The previously neutral Downton then held debriefs with senior players, the coaching staff, and Cook before sacking Pietersen. That move has since led to a national debate on BBC radio yesterday.
It also turned nasty as Matt Prior was drawn into a row on Twitter with Piers Morgan, Pietersen's loudest public ally. Morgan said Prior addressed the team meeting in Melbourne and "slaughtered" Flower. He also said Prior "stabbed" Pietersen in the back when he spoke to Flower about the meeting.
"I don't do this PR, spinning media rubbish but I refuse to be attacked by a bloke that knows very little about what goes on in the England set-up apart from rumour, gossip and hearsay from certain individuals (most of whom I'd take with a pinch of salt!!)," responded Prior.
"Maybe I was recorded or 'hacked' but if not I'd like to see where these words I apparently said have come from? I'm not the kind of person to divulge what is said in team meetings but all I will say is that Flower, Cook and the rest of my team-mates know exactly what I said.
"There is no story here just an attempt to knock someone who has only ever had the team's best interests at heart and tried my best on and off the field to help the England cricket team. I can hold my head up high in that knowledge."
Even Pietersen's wife took to social media to attack her husband's critics. She described Dominic Cork, the ex-England player turned broadcaster, as a liar suggesting her husband and Cook nearly came to blows in Sydney.
In fact, it is understood the pair did not "square up" or come close to blows but disagreed over that day's training. Cook decided to hold a physical fitness session having told the team part of the reason they were losing was because they were not as fit as Australia.
After the session Pietersen told Cook the team were fitter than he had known at any other time in his career and felt they should have been working on skills instead. Flower overheard and told Pietersen to meet him later. It was during this confrontation that details of the Melbourne meeting were discussed.
Pietersen is a canny media operator. Darren Gough has had exclusive interviews with him for TalkSport, and defended him yesterday: "I'm amazed at some of the rubbish that's been spoken about regarding the excuses to leave him out. We haven't got a coach, yet we're telling someone he's gone."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)