~~Proteas under Woolmer tampered ball in 1997~~

Published: Friday, August 25, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney: In a sensational revelation, a former Australian match referee has claimed that the South African team under Bob Woolmer tampered with the ball in a match against India in 1997.

Siding with Darrell Hair in the recent ball-tampering controversy against Pakistan, former Aussie Test captain and wicketkeeper Barry Jarman says the South Africans under the then coach, Woolmer, scratched the ball from one side to get it to reverse swing against the Indians.

Jarman, who was refereeing in the match, said he noticed two Protea fielders ''messing'' with the ball and asked for it to be changed immediately.

''The ball is only 16 overs old, yet one side has been tampered with and you can see where they have run their thumbnails down the seam which opens up,'' Jarman told the Courier Mail from Adelaide.

''The open seam (which caught the sweat) meant one side was heavier than the other,'' he added.

Unveiling the tampered ball in Adelaide, Jarman refused to name the players involved in the incident but said it looked as if the two fielders had been specially assigned to scratch the ball and Allan Donald, whom Jarman insisted was not one of the players tampering with the ball, got considerable swing after it had been tampered with.

''I saw Allan Donald all of a sudden start swinging the ball everywhere on the television,'' he said.

The former match refree said he became suspicious after noticing the bowlers throwing the ball towards the two suspects at regular intervals.

''I picked up the binoculars and started watching closer. Even when the bowler fielded the ball, he threw it to players specifically designated to mess around with the ball,'' he said.

Jarman revealed that after the on-field umpires confirmed his suspicion, he immediately ordered for the ball to be replaced. ''I thought 'hello, what's going on here?'. I said to the umpire 'grab the ball because I think they are messing around with it'.

Once he looked at it he said 'yes boss, they have, the seam is lifted'.

''So I told him to run a box of balls out and we would change it immediately,'' he added.

His actions infuriated Woolmer, who according to Jarman walked into his room to seek an explanation.

''They all went berserk, including Bob Woolmer, who raced into my office and said 'what's going on?','' Jarman said.

''I said 'your guys are stuffing around with the ball, mate'. I told him who it was and he went out with his tail between his legs,'' he recalled.

Jarman threatened to reveal the matter to the press but settled it within closed doors after an apology from the two guilty fielders.

''I said to him 'if you really want to make something of it I can give it to the press and we'll see what happens then, but I will just give you a warning to cut it out','' the former match referee said.

''The two players later came up to my hotel room and apologised.

I was happy to handle it the way I did because they stopped it and that was what I was trying to do,'' he added.

Justifying his decision to keep the matter under wraps, Jarman said making the issue public would have been detrimental to the game.

''I felt the more low-key I could keep it, the better it would be for the game,'' he said.

Jarman said he felt Darrell Hair did the right thing in penalising the Pakistanis in the Oval Test against England and he believed his compatriot was suffering for standing by the truth.

''I really admire Darrell Hair for what he's done in England. He is a guy who tells the truth and is suffering for it. He is one of the best, an umpire who can lie straight in bed,'' he said.

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