Champions Trophy: AB De Villiers stokes suspicions of England ball-tampering


The most significant aspect of ball-tampering scares is that they do not fade away easily. Once the finger of suspicion has been pointed it tends to stay pointed, which made it inevitable that it would be raised before the first semi-final of the Champions Trophy.

England, who play South Africa at The Oval today, are having trouble escaping from the shadow of suspicion although no official evidence about the remotest wrongdoing has been offered and no reports have been made. It is the issue that exercises minds more than any other except perhaps throwing.

Wrapping your bat round an opponent's head would bring mild censure compared to the faintest whiff of interfering with the natural state of the ball, which tends to elicit immediate howls of outrage about the game's moral decline. It always was a batsman's game.

"If they are doing something funny with the ball, then it's definitely a concern, yes, but we've got no proof of that," said A B De Villiers, South Africa's captain, yesterday. "Look, they seem to get it to reverse a bit quicker than the rest of the teams so maybe they've just got really good skill in their bowlers.

"We've tried as well, I think all teams try to do that, and we haven't really managed to succeed, but we'll try that again tomorrow and see if our bowlers can find that skill to reverse the ball."

All teams try to gain an advantage and reverse swing, with the immediate potency it brings, is obviously beneficial. England happen to be good at it and in the dry conditions at Edgbaston against Australia managed to do it early in the game. They failed to do so at The Oval against Sri Lanka. When their captain, Alastair Cook, had a mild whinge about the umpires changing the ball and the Sky pundit Bob Willis later said that the umpire Aleem Dar was on England's case the tampering floodgates opened wide.

De Villiers ensured they stayed ajar by saying: "It's something that the umpires and the ICC will probably look into why England and some of the other teams might get it to reverse quicker.

"All that is really not up to me to decide or to comment on that. But if there is something funny happening, then it's definitely a concern, yes," he added.

Then again, he would say that, wouldn't he, knowing that England's skill could bring South Africa down. The sides have been evenly matched of late, drawing 2-2 in England last year.

South Africa go into the match saddled still with their enduring status as chokers. They relieved it slightly with their nail-biting tie, under the Duckworth-Lewis system, with West Indies in their final Champions Trophy group match, and might shed it until at least the next tournament, if they win today.

"Look, we've had two big games, the last two games we played, and we didn't choke there," said De Villiers. "Obviously that's a good start. We owned up to it before. It's something that's been around for a while. I believe all teams choke in certain situations. It's just we somehow managed to get that tag behind our names. Unless we win this tournament, people will stay say, 'You're chokers', so no matter what happens, it's something we've dealt with."

South Africa probably have more concerns about the short-term fitness of Dale Steyn than their long-term reputation. Steyn, struggling with an array of fast bowler's complaints, missed the first two games of the tournament and did little at practice yesterday.

De Villiers sounded cautious about his chances but added that South Africa had won without him before. Today, however, already minus Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Morne Morkel in this competition they would definitely prefer to be with him.


The new boys: Three South Africans England know little about

Colin Ingram

Promoted to opener for the first time at the start of the tournament, he looked nervous taking over from the injured veteran Graeme Smith. But a half-century in the crucial tie against West Indies showed that coach Gary Kirsten's hunch was right. He is a bristling left-hander who provides a foil for the more elegant Hashim Amla.

David Miller

A bludgeoning middle-order hitter who is given licence to attack. He made a huge impression with Yorkshire in the domestic T20 competition last year and in the IPL this year. He has a saying passed on by his father: "If it's in the V it's in the tree, if it's in the arc it's out of the park."

Chris Morris

Drafted into the squad in an emergency, without any previous ODI experience, when Morne Morkel was crocked, he is one of a multitude of all-rounders in the team. Exceptional on his ODI debut against Pakistan, he was less miserly against West Indies but still removed Chris Gayle.

Head to head: England v Proteas

Test matches (1889- )

P141 England wins 56; South Africa wins 31; Draws 54

One-day Internationals (1992- )

P50 Eng wins 21; SA wins 25; Ties 1; No result 3

Twenty20 matches (2007- )

P8 Eng wins 3; SA wins 4; NR 1

Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
People walk through Autumn leaves in St James's Park yesterday
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits