England furious over SA suggestions of Broad ball tampering
The South Africa camp said they had "raised their concerns" with Roshan Mahanama, the match referee, after television cameras had picked up pictures of Stuart Broad late in the morning session treading on the ball with his spikes and James Anderson poking at it with his fingers.
The images can hardly be considered conclusive evidence of tampering, but South Africa believe they are part of a pattern of deliberate ball-scuffing, which could be intended to foster reverse swing.
Flower insisted that his bowlers had put in a day of "honest" toil and added: "Over the years we have seen a lot of tall fast bowlers stop the ball with their boot, so I don’t see anything sinister in it at all."
Asked about Broad’s use of his spikes and another moment when he was pictured hurling the ball hard into the pitch, Flower replied: "I think you’re talking about very isolated incidents.
"If you’re talking about stopping the ball once with your boot, and one throw, through a session of 80 overs today, I think you’re being a little bit pernickety."
The England camp are clearly furious about the issue. "We firmly rebut any accusations of ball tampering," a spokesman said.
Although the South Africans say they have taken the matter up with the match referee, they have yet to file the written complaint that would trigger the full disciplinary process, including a hearing and possible penalties for any player found to be involved.
According to sources within the South Africa camp, they want to come back on Wednesday morning and take soundings from the match officials, who include Mahanama and the two on field umpires, Daryl Harper and Tony Hill, before deciding whether to take the issue to the International Cricket Council.
Given that the TV pictures are suspicious rather than truly incriminating, there would probably have to be some further evidence – such as marks on the ball or personal testimony from one of the on field umpires — for this accusation to become formal.
At the moment, it seems as though the South Africans may be trying to incriminate England via the media rather than following through with their claims.
"I don’t want to say anything at the moment," Mahanama said on Tuesday night. "People have different perspectives. The umpires have had a long, tough day, and they have handled it well."
It emerged that Mahanama had spoken to the umpires about the footage at lunchtime. As the players took the field for the afternoon session, Harper and Hill then spoke to Andrew Strauss, the England captain, reminding him that they have the right to inspect the ball at regular intervals, and that if any cleaning is required, they should be the ones to do it.
Broad himself would not be quoted, though he let it be known that stopping the ball with his boot had seemed the most logical option in such oven-like heat.
The incident happened in the 15th over of South Africa’s innings, when Hashim Amla played a defensive shot back down the pitch. Having stopped the ball, Broad then threw it to James Anderson who cupped it in both hands and started working it.
The cameras picked up a couple of scrapes with the index finger, as well as a pick at a loose bit of leather, which may or may not have been dislodged by Broad’s spikes.
But none of this was especially damning, as Anderson was cradling the ball gently rather than gouging at it.
Reverse swing is becoming an emotive subject in this series, especially as South Africa had come out of the Durban Test with questions about how England had made the ball duck and dive, while their own bowlers struggled to move it off the straight.
In the days between the Tests, South African coach Mickey Arthur was asked to pinpoint the reason for this disparity. "It’s a question I’ve asked as well," he replied. "I want to know how come England are swinging it and we’re not."
Ball tempering - what is it?
Ball tampering is the altering of the condition of the ball, as opposed to the maintaining of it, by illegal means under the Laws of Cricket.
Examples are picking the seam, by which the stitching of the main seam is raised by fingernails in order to gain more movement off it. This is difficult to achieve with a Kookaburra ball, whose seams goes soft after about 20 overs.
Reverse swing can be achieved by roughing one side of the ball and keeping it dry while simultaneously keeping the other smooth and clammy. It can be achieved by legal means but any picking or deliberate scuffing of the ball to make it rough is considered illegal.
South Africa obviously felt Broad's actions were an attempt to fast forward that abrasive process.
(C) The Telegraph Group, London, 2010