Pietersen bags libel damages from optician

Frank Dalleres
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ENGLAND batsman Kevin Pietersen accepted substantial libel damages from Specsavers at the High Court yesterday after the optician ran an advert suggesting he may have tampered with his bat during this year’s Ashes triumph.

The implication was particularly sensitive as Pietersen had recently emphatically rejected Australian media claims that he used tape on his bat in an attempt to bypass the Hot Spot system, which detects contact from the ball.

Specsavers’ advert showed a photograph of the 33-year-old accompanied by the slogan: “Bat tampering in the Ashes? Apparently Hot Spot should’ve gone to Specsavers.”

Pietersen’s solicitor Louise Prince told the court that the advert, which appeared in newspapers and magazines as well as on Twitter and Facebook, contained a “serious and defamatory allegation” that was untrue and unfounded.

The optician said it did not intend to imply that the Surrey player had tampered with his bat and agreed to pay substantial damages as well as Pietersen’s legal costs. He said he would donate the money to charity.

Specsavers added: “We accept that this allegation is untrue and that Kevin Pietersen did not tamper with his bat. We apologise unreservedly for any distress and embarrassment our advert has caused to Kevin Pietersen. We have removed the advert from circulation.”

Australian broadcaster Channel Nine claimed after the third Ashes Test in August that players from both teams were using silicone tape to deceive Hot Spot, but only named Pietersen.

The South Africa-born star, who helped England retain the urn with a 3-0 series victory, quickly denied the “horrible lies” on Twitter.

He wrote: “To suggest I cheat by covering my bat with silicone infuriates me. How stupid would I be to try to hide a nick when it could save me on an lbw appeal, like in [the] first innings where Hot Spot showed I nicked it.”

Pietersen scored 338 runs during the five-match series, including 113 in the drawn third Test at Old Trafford.

He is part of the 17-man squad for the return Ashes series in Australia this winter. He and his team-mates depart later this month, with the first warm-up match starting on 31 October and the first Test set to begin in Brisbane on 21 November.