Cricket: Surrey fined for 'repeated' ball-tampering

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THE ball-doctoring row that tainted Pakistan's tour of England during the summer took a new and unexpected turn yesterday when Surrey were fined pounds 1,000 for 'repeated breaches' of rules and regulations over tampering with the ball.

The Test and County Cricket Board imposed the fine, which has been suspended for two years, after three incidents over the last three seasons. Surrey's case was heard on Wednesday this week at Lord's by a four-man disciplinary panel.

In a statement yesterday the TCCB said: 'A summary panel of the TCCB discipline committee has fined Surrey CCC pounds 1,000 for repeated breaches of the rules and regulations.

'This fine (the maximum the panel could impose) has been suspended for two years. . .Surrey admitted a breach of law 42 (5) at The Oval in August. They had been reported in 1990 and again in 1991 for similar breaches.

'It must be stressed that we do not see ball tampering in our domestic game as a serious problem. There is nothing which cannot be coped with by the co-operation of captains and the vigilance of umpires.'

The TCCB was unwilling to name the guilty players involved in the three matches. Surrey, while admitting the charge, have so far made no further comment.

A TCCB spokesman pointed out that no other counties have been reported for ball-tampering in recent years. The practice of scuffing and marking one side of the ball is believed to help fast bowlers swing it after the initial shine has worn off.

The latest of the three incidents involving Surrey came in a Britannic Assurance Championship match against Leicestershire at The Oval on 14 August, when the umpires, Barry Dudleston and John Holder, ordered the ball to be changed under Law 42 (5), which states: 'No one shall rub the ball on the ground or use any artificial substance or take any other action to alter the condition of the ball'.

The two other incidents are believed to have occurred in a Championship game against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in 1990, when the umpires, Chris Balderstone and Barrie Leadbeater, ordered a ball change, and in last season's Championship match against Yorkshire at Guildford, where the umpires were Bob White and Don Oslear.

News of yesterday's action against Surrey by the TCCB came only 24 hours after Allan Lamb's record pounds 5,000 fine for breaching his contract when he made accusations against the Pakistan fast bowlers, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.

Lamb's claims followed an incident at the Texaco one-day international at Lord's on 23 August, when the umpires changed the ball. However, the International Cricket Conference has refused to reveal whether this was under law 42 (5) or not. Waqar and Wasim are reportedly bringing legal action against Lamb because of his allegations.

Waqar plays county cricket for Surrey, whose captain is Alec Stewart, the England vice-captain. Waqar was not in the Surrey team for the game this year against Leicestershire when the ball was changed. Surrey lost the match by 72 runs. However, he did play in the other two games in which Surrey were believed to have been reported.

The first of them, at Cheltenham, was during the summer in which the stitching on the seam of the ball was reduced from 15 strands to nine and batting records tumbled on a succession of bland pitches, prompting one county captain to advocate that picking the seam should be allowed as a means of correcting the imbalance. The Cheltenham match was a high-scoring draw in which Waqar took two wickets.

Surrey won the second game, at Guildford, by one wicket, with Waqar collecting eight Yorkshire wickets, five of them in a decisive second-innings burst with the old ball costing just eight runs. However, the ball was not replaced because the only substitute available was itself in poor condition. It was after the second breach that the TCCB sent a letter to Surrey warning that there would be serious consequences in the event of any repetition.

Some have claimed that ball-doctoring is widespread within the game. The Middlesex and England seamer, Angus Fraser, said yesterday: 'Virtually all bowlers would have to say that they have tampered with the ball at some stage during their county career. I found out about the benefits of roughing up one side of the ball in 1989. I'm not a big swinger of the ball, but when I did that it swung.

'People say it's cheating, but what about the batsman who gets an edge and doesn't walk? The rules are ridiculous and very difficult to interpret. I cannot understand why we are allowed to spit on the ball, apply sweat to it and rub it on our trousers and yet not be allowed to rough it up. In both cases you are altering its condition. In any case, the ball is the bowler's property. Using bottle-tops is clearly not on, but what he does with his hand is his own business.'

Fraser added: 'It only makes a difference in certain conditions with certain bowlers. I think the umpires know what's going on, but many are afraid to say anything for fear of the consequences.'

Durham have signed Anderson Cummins, the West Indian fast bowler, as their overseas player for next season. Cummins, 26, who has played in 16 one-day internationals but has yet to make his Test debut, has been offered a one-year contract. He will replace Dean Jones, who is set to tour England with the Australians next season. Cummins was the West Indies' leading wicket-taker in the World Cup and is in the squad to tour Australia this winter. He has been playing Central League cricket for Blossomfield this season.