South Africa play down Kevin Pietersen text messages as 'banter'

 

No formal approach has been made by the England and Wales Cricket Board to see Kevin Pietersen's infamous text messages, South Africa's team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee has confirmed.

Pietersen was dropped by England for this week's third Test at Lord's after failing to reveal the contents of messages sent to South African players during the drawn match at Headingley.

The ECB had told Pietersen his selection was dependant on him confirming publicly that no derogatory texts about his team-mates had been sent to South African players, or if they had been sent, to apologise for them.

In a prepared statement, Moosajee today insisted the messages contained nothing more than "banter" and he refuted suggestions they were sent to Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers.

Moosajee and coach Gary Kirsten then refused to take any questions on the Pietersen situation, preferring to distance themselves from the whole saga.

"There has been untruthful allegations in the media implicating members of our squad in the current issue between Kevin Pietersen and the ECB," Moosajee said.

"We stand by the same stance we have taken since we heard the news about these allegations.

"Yes, text messages were sent but like we said before it was banter among team-mates, which is perfectly acceptable.

"The ECB has not made a formal approach to myself or any member of the team to see the text messages, as currently reported in the media.

"Allegations that Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers were the recipients of the texts are unfounded. Until such time that the allegations are met with the correct facts and evidence, we shall not comment.

"The internal issue between Kevin Pietersen and the English cricket board has been publicised for weeks, even before we arrived in the UK and we dont want to get ourselves involved in an issue that has nothing to do with us."

Pietersen will need to act fast, and in good faith, to salvage his England career - and even have a chance of joining the defence of their ICC World Twenty20 title after all.

The ECB put back their squad announcement by an extra five hours to allow Pietersen time to comply regarding the reported texts, but no mention of them was made in either Pietersen's YouTube video on Saturday night or his reaction a day later to being omitted from the 13-man squad.

Conclusions have abounded in print, and online, today that - after 88 Tests, 127 one-day internationals and 36 Twenty20s - 32-year-old Pietersen has played his last match for his adopted country.

It appears that need not have to be the case, however, if he can summon either ideally a denial that he sent any such texts or perhaps a heartfelt apology for something entirely inappropriate done in the heat of the moment.

Certainly, there is still provision in the International Cricket Council tournament rules for England to add a player from outside the preliminary 30 they picked last month to take on the world at Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

The deadline for that initial squad to be halved, for a competition set to begin on September 18, is next Saturday - the middle day of the must-win Lord's Test.

Word from the ECB today was that the selectors intend to stick to that timetable, with the squads for 50-over and Twenty20 matches at home to South Africa then likely to be announced after the final Investec Test - which, of course, England must win to share the series and stop their opponents taking away their world number one status.

Pietersen was not initially picked in the 30, following his retirement from all limited-overs cricket at the end of May - the beginning of a summer saga of contract wrangles between him and his employers.

It was not until Saturday evening that he announced he was once again available to England in all formats.

Pietersen's return to the fold was then widely anticipated in advance of yesterday's squad announcement - until it became clear that the intrigue over alleged text messages remained a major stumbling block to his England future.

While Andrew Strauss and co step up their preparations for a crucial match, in which they could well do without any further distractions, Pietersen's next move will provide a tense backdrop.

He, and England, would have to cite "exceptional reasons" for his name to be allowed in the final 15 next weekend - but it is still possible.

PA

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