SEAMER Stuart Broad was last night embroiled in a bitter ball-tampering row as England lost their grip on the third Test in Cape Town.
Television footage appeared to show Broad trapping the ball with the sole of his studded boot as he went to stop a defensive shot from Hashim Amla in the morning session.
Replays suggested Broad had applied pressure on the ball with the studs, prompting South African officials to “raise concerns” to match referee Roshan Mohanama.
“There have been several queries from the media about various video footage shown today, and certain allegations being made about the ball,” a South African spokesman said.
“We have raised our concerns with the match referee about it and we’ve left it to him to decide if any further action or investigation is necessary.”
England coach Andy Flower, however, looked to play down the incident. “I don’t think it is a big issue,” he said. “It was a long, hot day and he put his foot out and stopped the ball. All he did was stop the ball.
“I think over the years we have seen a lot of tall fast bowlers stop balls with their feet so I don’t see anything sinister in it at all.”
The alleged incident capped a miserable day for Flower’s England, who saw any chance of sealing an unassailable 2-0 series lead disappear with a devastating captain’s innings from Graeme Smith in the soaring Cape Town heat. Smith smashed a magnificent unbeaten 162, including a match-saving 230-run partnership with Amla (95), as the hosts closed day three on 312-2 – an overall lead of 330.
England resumed the third day on 241-7, but lost two wickets in two balls in the first over of the day. Matt Prior batted to a gallant 76, but England were dismissed for 273 – a deficit of 18.
From then on, however, there was only one team in the hunt. England tried and failed to get the best of the uneven track, and despite Graeme Swann trapping Ashwell Prince lbw for 15, success came at a premium.
But Smith still wasn’t done, smashing the wiltering England bowlers to all points of the ground in a batting masterclass – although he was reprieved on 51 when a Swann lbw call was overturned on review.
Similarly, Amla chipped in with a stylish knock, only to fall five short of a well-deserved century when he was caught at short-leg by Alastair Cook after Swann finally got some turn.
But with Smith in determined mood and two days still to play, surely the writing is on the wall for England.