Bowling tactics deliver new controversy

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England were accused of negative tactics last night as the fourth Test was hit by fresh controversy. Dominic Cork, having pushed South Africa to the brink of collapse at 69 for 6, resorted to bowling down the leg side while Gary Kirsten and Shaun Pollock tried to set up a declaration.

Cork was called for a wide by Cyril Mitchley - and that sparked a debate between the 57-year-old umpire and the England captain, Mike Atherton. Mitchley said that he had signalled a wide simply because he thought it was out of Pollock's reach. However, the decision had been on the cards for some time, and that delivery looked no further down the leg side than several others.

The umpire spoke to Atherton after two balls during Cork's previous over had given Kirsten little chance of making contact. "Maybe it's a good idea, but it just seems like negative cricket to me," said Kirsten after close of play, when asked about England's tactics. "I haven't seen it happen too often. You would think maybe they would have wanted to bowl us out," he said.

Bob Woolmer, the South Africa coach, added: "It's not the greatest part of the game of cricket but, given the situation, I can understand why it was being done." Asked if his team would use the same tactics, Woolmer said: "I hope not, no."

"We had to try not to give them boundaries," Cork said. "You try to make the batsman work hard for his runs by bowling near his legs. All the umpire said was that if I bowled consistently down the leg side he could call a wide. I tried then to mix it up."

Kirsten admitted that the first part of the South African second innings had gone wrong. "But it was always our plan to get 170-180 runs with about 10 overs remaining - we just didn't expect to be nine wickets down."