Sri Lanka v England, 2nd Test, Kandy December 11, 2003

Hussain cleared after Muralitharan outburst

At the centre of the storm: a tight-lipped Nasser Hussain leaves Kandy
© Getty Images

Nasser Hussain has been cleared of verbally abusing Muttiah Muralitharan, after an incident on the second day's play at Kandy. But Clive Lloyd, the ICC match referee, has cautioned England and Sri Lanka's cricketers, and warned that he will deal "very harshly" with any further transgressions.

Hussain, who had been fielding close to the wicket as Muralitharan came out to bat at the end of Sri Lanka's innings, was alleged to have sworn at Murali, who immediately lodged a complaint with umpire Aleem Dar. When the Sri Lankan management reported the incident, both players were called before the match referee at the close of play, along with England's coach Duncan Fletcher and the non-striker, Dinusha Fernando.

After studying video evidence of the incident, Lloyd admitted that something was clearly said, but there was no evidence to back up Murali's claims. But Lloyd, who had spoken to James Kirtley at the close of the first day's play, and to both sets of captains at the start of the second, was clearly frustrated at the attitudes of the teams.

"I am very disappointed at the behaviour of the players," said Lloyd. "As of tomorrow, anyone contravening the code of conduct will be dealt with very harshly indeed. These are professional players, they must show professional integrity. And as an ex-captain, I would have expected Hussain to show the right sort of guidance. At the moment I have had to exonerate him of the charge."

Murali's innings came to a bizarre conclusion, when he was bowled by Ashley Giles without either umpire noticing what had happened. Giles, who finished with five wickets, attempted to defuse the situation at the close of play. "Anything that's said out there is just meant to upset people which it probably has," he said. "It's important both teams keep their cool and we've been told about that but it's difficult. We are in high pressure situations out there, and it's hot and at times you may say something you regret."

It is not the first time that the Kandy Test has spilled over in such a way. Two years ago, the corresponding fixture descended into anarchy, and Lloyd is keen to prevent this match going the same way.