Cricket: New Zealand accused

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The Independent Online
For the first time this winter Michael Atherton was able to watch the off-field pressure mount on his opponents yesterday as New Zealand, looking at a heavy defeat on the pitch, had to face allegations of ball tampering and late-night partying.

The ball-tampering accusations surfaced when Sky television's pictures appeared to show Geoff Allott spinning the ball around in his hand while digging his fingernails into its seam. Paul Allott, the former England bowler, now commentating for Sky, told viewers: "That's illegal. You shouldn't be doing that, and he's being very naive."

But as the match referee, Peter Burge, only sees New Zealand television pictures in his box in the Basin Reserve stands, and the umpires Steve Bucknor and Doug Cowie did not report anything to him, it is unlikely any official action will be taken. And New Zealand's coach, Steve Rixon said: "We have no reason to think that Allott does anything. The first I have heard of these allegations is tonight."

Then came the charges of late-night misbehaviour. One local radio station reported that the all-rounder Chris Cairns had returned to the hotel at 4am, and quoted the taxi-driver who had ferried him back. Other witnesses claimed to have spotted three other players in a late-night bar a couple of hours earlier. These charges, too, were firmly denied by the New Zealand management.

On the field, Graham Thorpe's second successive century helped England into a commanding position.

Derek Pringle, page 22

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