Vaughan helps Cork to escape 'cheat' ban

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Dominic Cork, the Derbyshire captain, escaped with a suspended three-match ban for calling Leicestershire's Bradley Hodge a cheat after the England one-day captain, Michael Vaughan, and former umpire Dickie Bird intervened in his defence.

Cork made his allegation after television replays appeared to show Hodge step over the boundary rope while taking a catch in a Twenty20 Cup match which Leicestershire won by one run, denying their opponents passage to the semi-finals.

The former England player admitted he had breached rules banning personal attacks within the game, but with both Vaughan and Bird providing character references an England and Wales Cricket Board disciplinary panel hearing at Lord's reduced the punishment they could have handed out.

Cork received a £500 fine and was required to pay £500 towards the cost of the hearing, but a ban from playing in three first-class matches was suspended for 12 months.

The 31-year-old Cork said: "I thank the committee for a fair hearing and I thank the support I've had from first-class cricketers and umpires around the country."

A statement from the ECB read: "We consider for personal verbal attacks such as these a suspension from playing is the proper punishment.

"Without the mitigating factors we would have immediately suspended Dominic for three first class matches but we suspend the punishment for 12 calendar months."

Hodge has said he is considering legal action over the allegation, made first to the Australian's face by Cork after the match on 24 June, and then on television the following day.

* Sri Lanka have appointed John Dyson as the new coach of their national side. The former opening batsman replaces fellow Australian Dav Whatmore, now in charge of Bangladesh, and has agreed a contract which will run until 2005.