Giles denies tampering claims
Ashley Giles, the England one-day coach, has vehemently denied accusations made by the Bob Willis that England have been tampering with the ball during the Champions Trophy.
Willis, a former England captain and one of their most prolific fast bowlers, claimed on Sky Sports that there was no other reason for the umpires to change the ball part-way through Sri Lanka's run chase at The Oval on Friday.
"Let's not beat about the bush - Aleem Dar is on England's case," Willis said. "He knows that one individual is scratching the ball for England - who I am not going to name - and that's why the ball was changed."
Giles launched a strong denial ahead of England's crucial final group match against New Zealand, which England must win to be certain of their progression in the tournament.
"We don't tamper with the ball and I hope we can talk about something else," he said. "It is disappointing because we have a huge game, a quarter-final must-win, and there are a lot of headlines about the wrong stuff.
"With the situation the other day, the ball was changed because it had gone out of shape. We asked the question, the captain asked that question to the umpires which he has a right to. The ball was changed, the rest is history.
"I guess we always take allegations seriously. People have the right to say what they say, we can't stop them. It sounds boring, but we have to focus on what we want to do. The most important thing is winning cricket matches and not what Bob Willis says.''
Willis questioned the official line - universally repeated by ICC, ECB, umpires, match officials and the England captain, Alastair Cook - that the ball had been changed because it was misshapen.
"Have you ever heard of the batting side complaining about the shape of the ball, or the umpires saying 'we're going to change the ball because it's out of shape'?" he asked.
"The bowling side change the ball because it's out of shape because they think it's gone soft. That's the reason, pure and simple. How naive does Alastair Cook think we are? The ball was changed because it was out of shape? He didn't want the ball changed, so why was it changed?"
Cook has been England's preferred ball hander during Tests. Because he sweats so little, his hands remain relatively dry and maintaining the dryness of the ball is a crucial component in getting it to reverse swing.
That role has primarily been handed over to Ravi Bopara during the Champions Trophy.
Giles complained: "There is even mention of one of our player's specific roles and that player is an extremely good cricketer and has had an extremely good series so far and we would like to let him concentrate on playing his cricket as best as he can."
He insisted that reverse swing was being achieved by fair means.
"The one big thing about this tournament so far, particularly at Edgbaston where we did get reverse swing, is how dry the squares are. That is a mixture of the amount of watering you are allowed to do, the new drainage systems, which saps the moisture out of the squares, and the amount of wickets that have been cut on those squares because there have been practice games and a number of internationals played on those squares.
"There are loads of different methods. At Edgbaston we were probably bowling cross-seamers as early as the third or fourth over. From the boundary you go for a throw on the bounce because not everybody can throw it in on the full from 70 metres and that is permitted by the regulations, to bounce it in once."
The problem started for England when umpires Dar and Billy Bowden changed one of the two balls in the 26th over of Sri Lanka's successful run chase at the Oval on Thursday evening.
Within minutes, an ICC spokesman officially told ESPNcricinfo that the ball had been changed because it was misshapen.
An ECB spokesman later took the same line, saying: "The umpires and match referee cannot talk about specific incidents during a tournament. But our understanding is that the ball was changed because it went out of shape."
England were unhappy as their attack was starting to gain reverse swing, which was key to their opening victory over Australia, with Cook leading the protests.
The replacement ball moved little and Kumar Sangakkara went on to complete a superb unbeaten hundred to guide Sri Lanka to victory.
After the match, Cook said: "The ball was changed because it was out of shape. The umpires make these decisions and you have to accept them. Sometimes you don't think they are the right decisions."
Confusion also surrounded whether the officially misshapen ball went through the gauge that is used to check whether a ball is out of shape.
One member of England's management team said that the ball went through the hoop and that explained Cook's anger, as it was still fit for purpose. But England's fielding coach, Richard Halsall, claimed the ball did not pass through the device. Neither the ICC not the ECB has provided clarification.
Australian umpire Darrell Hair, together with West Indies' Billy Doctrove, docked Pakistan five runs for ball-tampering during a controversial Test against England in 2006.
Pakistan refused to take the field and forfeited the match in protest - the first time this had happened in Test history. They were subsequently exonerated by an ICC investigation and the ensuing row ultimately cost Hair his career as a senior international umpire.
However, the match officials in the England-Sri Lanka match took no similar action and the ICC explained that, as the umpires haven't reported anything and no team has complained, they were not planning to take any action.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo