Ball tampering threatened to overwhelm the Test series between England and South Africa yesterday. The tourists, who will probably lose the third Test today, were cleared of any wrongdoing without being charged, while the home side insisted officially that they accepted the findings but it was an issue that clearly will not go away.
The way that South Africa feel was expressed by their batsman A B De Villiers after play on the fourth day of the Test with his side needing seven more England wickets to win. "I think there should be a formal complaint because the ball did reverse after that," he said. "There was obviously quite clearly a piece of the leather off the ball after Stuart Broad stepped on it and it's not the first time it has happened. It was a little bit naughty. I'm not saying he deserves to be banned but it should definitely be looked at."
TV footage showed Broad standing on the ball with his spikes early in South Africa's second innings, after which his fellow fast bowler, Jimmy Anderson, could be seen apparently scratching the ball and playing with an errant piece of leather. To obtain the mysterious ingredient of reverse swing – so-called because it goes in the opposite direction to conventional swing – one side of the ball must be dry and rough, the other in pristine condition.
South Africa expressed reservations to the match referee after the ball apparently started reversing much sooner than they thought appropriate, although they were well on top in the match. They declined to make their complaint formal yesterday by charging England with altering the condition of the ball.
In a statement the ICC said that the umpires had brought no complaint and that the matter was closed. Dr Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa's team manager, said that they accepted the findings. "If you looked at the TV footage you could see quite clearly the ball was altered," he said. "We raised our concerns. There was no insinuation at all."
England's vice-captain, Alastair Cook, said they were surprised when the ball started reversing so early. "We were trying to look after the ball conventionally and we were surprised," he said. "The outfield is lush but the square is more abrasive. From nowhere it got scuffed up on the square and it did reverse swing. It was a little bit to do with the overhead conditions and credit ought to be given to the bowlers."
That England are sailing close to the wind was made extremely clear by one of their former captains, Michael Vaughan. He said on BBC Radio Five Live: "It certainly looks like Jimmy Anderson has had some kind of play on the ball. You have to look at the world of cricket and if it was Pakistan what would we make of it? It's a very delicate situation." Picking the seam is part of the game. The unspoken rule is that you do not get caught. England nearly did. They had better watch it.Reuse content