De Villiers reignites tampering row
AB de Villiers fanned the flames of the Stuart Broad ball-tampering controversy at the close of the fourth day's play at Cape Town, when he accused the England seamer of being "a little bit naughty" for stepping on the ball early in South Africa's second innings, and suggested that an official complaint ought to have been lodged by the South Africa team management.
After raising their "concerns" with the ICC match referee, Roshan Mahanama, South Africa had until the start of play on the fourth day to take their protest to a higher level. When they failed to do so, England believed that the incident had been laid to rest, and having studied the TV evidence for themselves, the ICC followed up with a press release to say the matter was closed.
However, de Villiers clearly didn't want the matter to die away that easily. "I think there should be a formal complaint because the ball did reverse after that," he said. "There was quite clearly a piece of leather off the ball after he'd [Broad] stepped on the ball and it's not the first time it happened. It's a little bit naughty, I wouldn't say he deserves to be banned but it should be looked at definitely."
De Villiers' comments suggested there were mixed messages coming out of the South Africa camp, because he implied that the matter had in fact been taken to a higher level already. "I'm not really sure what will happen about the decision-making, official complaints being written and all that. I thought we did," he said. "Mickey actually told us he sent an email through, but I'm not really aware of that."
De Villiers also claimed that the team had first discussed the issue of England gaining early reverse-swing after the second Test in Durban which South Africa lost by an innings and 98 runs. On the fourth day Broad blew away three middle-order wickets, including de Villiers, in the space of 15 balls.
"We spoke about it at Kingsmead because I look after our ball when we bowl and the captain asked why they get the ball to reverse a bit earlier," he added. "The questions have been asked a few days before this Test and they still got it to reverse a bit quicker. Maybe they just have more skills."
The overall impression was that South Africa were keen to keep the controversy rumbling on without actually backing up their strong words with strong actions. "All I know is that it's not on to be climbing onto the ball with your spikes," de Villiers said. "But again it's not on me to make the decisions. We all like to get the ball to reverse all over the show, as long as you do it in a legal way."
However, de Villiers admitted he hadn't actually seen any of the on-field incidents as yet. "I can't say I saw anything. It's up to the footage on TV and maybe they'll be something there," he added. "I just know they've been reversing it a few overs earlier than us."
The South Africa team manager, Dr Mohammed Moosajee, confirmed that their original concern was over the state of the ball and as far as the team was concerned the matter was dealt with by the match referee Mahanama.
"If you looked at the ball you could clearly see the ball was altered," Moosajee said. "If that was inadvertently or not we couldn't tell and we left it to the match referee to decide. The ball showed up with an indentation on it, and there were marks that went across, which is why we asked the match referee to have a look.
"They came back to us to say that they'd looked at everything and were quite satisfied that no further action needs to be taken and we accepted that."
Alastair Cook, who is one of three England players with the job of looking after the ball in the field, said that South Africa's claims had made the team angry, but as far as they were concerned the matter was over.
"We were a little bit [angry]," he said. "We're glad the matter is closed. We've done nothing wrong. We know what we've been doing is fine. The umpires, match referee and everyone else - with all the TV evidence - have said we've done nothing wrong, and we're totally 100% confident in our camp that that is true. That's what's been proved."
He added that it was England's bowlers who deserved praise for getting the ball to swing early in the conditions and that they had been working on their skills in an effort to become a more consistent threat overseas.
"We've been trying to find ways of getting the opposition out abroad when the Kookaburra goes flat, and the lads have been very skilled and put in a lot of hard work with Ottis Gibson to become better reverse-swingers of the ball. It's not just the ball; the bowlers have to take credit. I couldn't reverse-swing any ball, if I tried."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo