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Cricket: Warne cleared of Muller taunt

MAL SPEED, the Australian Cricket Board chief executive, has been forced to come to the defence of his team following comments heard on a stump microphone regarding Scott Muller, the Australian bowler, during the second Test against Pakistan earlier this month.

Muller, who has since been dropped from the squad, is said to be stunned by the taunt which was clearly heard as: "Can't bowl, can't throw." Suspicions are that the criticism came from an Australian team-mate.

Muller responded on Sunday, after taking the wicket of India's Sachin Tendulkar while playing for Queensland, by saying into the stump microphone: "Six for the game, Warnie."

The jibe prompted many to believe Shane Warne, the Australian leg-spinner, delivered the insult, but that was denied by his manager and the telecaster Channel Nine, which blamed it on a cameraman.

Speed supported the Australian players in denying any of them made the comment. "To try and link the players in any way with the comments which have subsequently been acknowledged as coming from a Channel Nine cameraman has been extremely disappointing," Speed said. "Investigations make it clear that at no point did any member of the Australian team make those comments."

Austin Robertson, Warne's manager, said his client did not make the remark. "I can only confirm that Shane didn't make the remark and as far as we're concerned the issue is over," Robertson said.

Channel Nine said the identity of the cameraman would not be revealed, but said he had been reprimanded. "He came forward out of concern about other players being blamed and he's apologised for any embarrassment he may have caused to Scott," the company's publicity manager, Brendan Moo, said.

In Brisbane yesterday, India got off to a poor start on their tour of Australia when they were beaten by 10 wickets by Queensland in a four- day match. On Sunday, Queensland had dismissed India for 204 in their second innings (the tourists lost seven wickets for 37 runs) after amassing 401 themselves.

Queensland needed just 81 second-innings runs to seal victory on the final day. The state side wasted little effort in reaching 82 for 0 to complete the win. Stuart Law, the Essex batsman and Queensland captain, led the way with 60 not out and Jimmy Maher was unbeaten on 20. Law, who was run out before facing a ball in the first innings, immediately found his range as the Indian pacemen failed to trouble the Queensland openers.

The Indian team head to Sydney for a four-day match against New South Wales, which starts on Thursday. The first of their three Tests against Australia is scheduled for Adelaide on 10 December.

n Nick Knight, the England opening batsman, has signed a new contract with Warwickshire that will keep him at Edgbaston until 2004. "We are delighted that Nick has decided to confirm his long-term commitment to Warwickshire," Dennis Amiss, the club's chief executive, said.