Strauss: Tampering row 'malicious'

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The Independent Online

As the dust was barely settling on a riveting Test match last night, England's captain gave it a stir. Andrew Strauss was deeply perturbed by South Africa's part in the great ball-tampering scare which threatened to besmirch the third Test.

That it did not was down to some compelling cricket throughout – another splendid advertisement for the game – which culminated in a thrilling climax. England hung on for a draw with one wicket left. But when Strauss was asked about ball interference he addressed it with zeal.

"We're not particularly happy about it and I really refute those allegations," Strauss said. "I really don't think there was any concerted effort on any of our parts to alter the state of the ball. I appreciate some of that footage didn't look amazingly good but I don't think it was anything malicious particularly.

"I do think to a certain extent announcing it to the media without being totally clear in their own minds what they were going to do, whether they were going to put in a formal complaint or not, is a little bit malicious. Ball tampering is a very sensitive subject with everyone. If you're going to make allegations you have to be very confident that that is exactly what the other team were doing."

But Strauss admitted that England had to be careful with the spotlight on them and said relations between the sides were still fine. "I'm very comfortable with our own actions. Hopefully today has gone some way to ensuring the game of cricket is the main story."

He was correct in that estimation and Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, said: "The series is competitive, it's played in a hard way but I have no doubt that when it's finished there will be a beer shared.

"That's the way cricket is played today, it's the way I like my team to play the game. But I don't see any off-the-field tensions. It's pretty tough on the field and that's the way people want to have it."

Smith, who had seen his side fall one wicket short of victory for the second time in three weeks, said: "There is a lot of disappointment in that dressing room. Our seamers gave 100 per cent and bowled without luck especially with the second new ball."

South Africa's best chance of forcing the victory lay with that second new ball but it came and went, though in a blaze of speed and ferocity worked up by Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. "The wicket got slower and slower and the new ball was going to be a key factor," said Smith.

"We had it set up with five down. Credit to Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, they stuck to their game plans and really showed a lot of character. I think once we got Paul there was always going to be a chance we would push right to the end. England closing up shop allowed us to create the pressure. It's hugely frustrating." He intends to vent how much at the Wanderers next week.