Bracken apologises for Eng ball tampering slur

Published: Thursday, October 20, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australian paceman Nathan Bracken apologised for insinuating England's bowlers doctored the ball to claim their first Ashes victory in 16 years.

Bracken, a fringe Test player who took no part in the Ashes series, said he was joking when he suggested English bowlers polished the ball with breath-freshening mints to achieve the reverse swing that bamboozled Australia's batsmen.

The New South Wales bowler offered his apologies to English bowler Simon Jones, who was quoted in British papers angrily denouncing the sweet-cheating claim as "sour grapes".

"I thought it would come across as a joke and it's come across the wrong way," Bracken told reporters.

"I've sent my apologies to Simon Jones and I'm making an effort to get in contact with him and basically sort things out so that everything's perfectly fine and I can make sure that no offence is taken."

Bracken said he had never seen English bowlers doctor the ball with mints, backing down from his comments Wednesday that the practice was commonplace when he played for Gloucester in 2003.

"When I was playing at Gloucester a couple of years ago as soon as we needed the ball to go 'Irish' the captain would call and they would bring out some of these mints and it would work," he told a Sydney radio station on Wednesday.

Reverse swing, when the ball moves in the air in the opposite direction to the one expected by the batsman, has long been associated with polishing one side of the ball and roughing up the other to change its aerodymanics.

The practice is legal provided no foreign substance such as sunscreen, or indeed mints, comes into direct contact with the ball.

Cricket Australia moved to clarify the grey area this month with a directive to umpires saying that applying sweat or spit to one side of the ball without immediately polishing it was illegal.

Newly-appointed Indian captain Rahul Dravid was reprimanded for rubbing a lozenge on the ball during a one-day international against Zimbabwe in Brisbane two seasons ago.

Former England captain Michael Atherton was accused of roughing up the ball to achieve reverse swing during the "dirt in pocket affair" against South Africa in 1994 and former Pakistani captain Imran Khan has admitted that he used bottle-tops to gouge the ball during his career.

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