England 'lucky' to escape ball-tampering charges

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The Independent Online

Former England captain Michael Vaughan believes England were fortunate to get away without official sanction over the 'ball-tampering' row, but predecessor Michael Atherton has criticised South Africa for over-reacting.

The controversy arose when the Proteas raised concerns over the state of the ball after Stuart Broad stopped it with the underside of his boot and James Anderson was pictured working the ball with his fingers moments later.

No formal complaint was pursued by the home side - to the apparent chagrin of an indignant AB de Villiers - leading the International Cricket Council to pronounce the issue over, but the debate has lingered on.

Vaughan, in his Daily Telegraph column, took a hard line, suggesting his former team could not have complained had sterner measures been pursued against the pair.

He wrote: "They were lucky to get away without an official reprimand, or even a ban because there was no doubt in my mind that they were trying to change the condition of the ball.

"They will think twice before trying it on again at The Wanderers next week. As it is, Anderson is a lucky man, I don't think anyone could have argued if he had been asked to sit out the next match, but the ICC has brushed the whole thing aside because they don't want any controversy."

Vaughan also suggested that Broad and Anderson may not have been treated in the same way had they have played for Pakistan.

"If Shoaib Akhtar or Mohammad Asif had been pictured using their fingers on the ball, there would have been uproar."

Atherton, meanwhile, has questioned South Africa's actions in raising the issue and then backing down from official action.

The former England skipper, who himself was fined in 1994 for rubbing dirt into the ball, believes Graeme Smith's side are guilty of gamesmanship.

He wrote in The Times: "Ball tampering is a serious allegation in cricket and if you make it, as South Africa effectively did by publicly raising their 'concerns' about the state of the ball, you had better be damn sure of your facts. But no formal complaint was forthcoming.

"After letting all and sundry know they felt England were up to no good on the third evening, South Africa ran for cover yesterday.

"South Africa's actions were akin to throwing a hand grenade in a public place - then running before the explosion."

Atherton also expressed sympathy with England's two seamers, adding: "Anderson and Broad have been tainted with cheating in the minds of the public with no chance to state their case.

"It has been a trial of television: images shown, the issue dissected; a judge and jury without the defendants present."