Smoke is without fire, says cricketer facing drug claim

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Two left-arm spinners made the headlines on New Zealand television last night. While Daniel Vettori, 18, was the toast of the country for his monumental efforts in trying to win the Christchurch Test for the Kiwis, Phil Tufnell was in the news for alleged off-the-field activities.

Almost immediately after receiving a jeroboam of bubbly for winning Test Match Special's Champagne Moment for his run out on Saturday, Tufnell was publicly defending himself against suggestions that he had been asked to leave Bardelli's, a city-centre restaurant, the previous evening, after being caught smoking an illegal substance in a disabled person's lavatory.

The England tour manager, John Barclay, yesterday backed the cricketer, saying: "I am well aware of the allegations made about Phil Tufnell, and I would add that they are very serious allegations.

"I have spoken to Phil at length, and very frankly, and I am completely satisfied with his assurances to me that these allegations are without foundation."

Tim Lamb, chief executive of the English Cricket Board confirmed that, as far as the board was concerned, Phil Tufnell would not be facing any action over the claims.

"Phil has categorically denied the allegations. I assume there is some mischief making going on," he added.

But Janelle Rossiter, who works at Bardelli's, said: "We had to do something about it when someone was smoking a joint in the one of the toilets.

"One of our staff managers followed him and waited outside. He was then asked to leave, and the three of them did so after paying their bill.

"They had been drinking and laughing, but when he left he was clearly not happy about things and he did dramatic bows all the way to the door.

"That meant the whole restaurant area became aware of what was happening. An English family apologised for him and said he was not representative of England. I feel a bit sorry for him, but he was being a prat."

Tufnell, who was not required to bat in England's four-wicket victory, made light of the affair, saying: "I find it extraordinary. It makes me laugh, it's ridiculous, mate. I'm probably going for a few beers tonight - I'm looking forward to it." Andy Farrell