'Throwing' row breaks over Perera

Serious doubts were cast yesterday on the action of the Sri Lankan seam bowler, Ruchira Perera. Although there was no official comment from the referee or the umpires, both television and radio drew attention to the left-armer's method and whether it might constitute a throw.

During Channel 4's coverage Michael Atherton and Dermot Reeve discussed Perera's action. Atherton said it should have been sorted out long before Perera reached Test status, to which Reeve responded: "I'm sorry Michael but I still think it's a throw." On BBC Radio's Test Match Special, Jonathan Agnew asked Roshan Mahanama if Perera's action had ever been scrutinised. Mahanama said it had but he had never been no-balled.

Perera, 26, took 3 for 48 in 11 overs during England's first innings and was on a hat-trick. He has played six Tests with a best return of 3 for 40. England last came across him in Matara in February last year when he played for the President's XI.

England made no formal complaint by close of play yesterday and the International Cricket Council said it had received no word from the referee, Gundappa Viswanath. Such were the loud whispers round Lord's, however, that the issue seems certain to go further. If the matter is reported to the ICC the Sri Lankans will be informed, make a statement within 24 hours and decide whether his action needs remedial treatment. There could then follow the involvement of the ICC panel on illegal deliveries.

The last bowler to be reported and alter his action was James Kirtley, the Sussex seam bowler. He came under suspicion on England's tour to Zimbabwe last autumn but has now returned. But Kirtley, like Perera, had bowled for years in first-class cricket. If Perera is similarly found to have a dodgy delivery the wonder will be that he was allowed to go so far.

The wording of the law on throwing was changed last year. It now says a ball is fairly delivered "if once the level of the bowler's arm has reached the shoulder in the delivery swing the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely until the ball has left the hand."

Sri Lanka have often felt that they have been unfairly treated at the hands of officialdom. Muttiah Muralitharan, their great spin bowler, has been called for throwing in Test and one-day international cricket. He has long since been cleared but when they last visited England in 1998, David Lloyd, then the England coach, questioned his method. Since Murali had just taken 16 wickets there was perhaps a hint of sour grapes, whatever Lloyd's belief. Since England are up against it in the present Test a similar suggestion could be made whatever the apparent evidence.

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