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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
voicesBy the man who has
people... and stop them from attacking people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
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

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?