London: England captain Alastair Cook has denied claims that the ability of his team`s bowlers to reverse swing the ball is connected with illegal ball- tampering or scratching the leather, saying that the bowlers can reverse swing the ball because of their skill and hard work.
The furore, blown into the open by former England captain Bob Willis, started when umpires Aleem Dar and Billy Bowden changed one of the two balls in the 26th over of Sri Lanka`s successful run chase at the Oval on Thursday evening in the ICC Champions Trophy.
Fast bowling legend Willis had alleged in an incendiary claim that an English player had been illegally damaging the ball with his fingernails.
Angry at the claims, Cook dismissed them and said that he and his bowlers believed that the ball was reaching the optimum condition to start reverse swinging, although he added that that the umpires had changed the ball as they believed that it was out of shape.
Stating that the umpires and match referee cannot talk about specific incidents during a tournament, an International Cricket Council (ICC) spokesman said that it is their understanding that the ball was changed because it went out of shape.
Reverse swing has been considered something of a dark art ever since the ball was changed during a one-day international between England and Pakistan at Lord`s in 1992, adding that balls reverse swing when one side is smooth and the other is rough and dry, for which bowlers want balls to scuff and soften quickly because they become more likely to reverse swing and more difficult to hit.
Reverse swing is fundamental to England`s game plan as they gained it against Australia at Edgbaston last Saturday and won by 48 runs, although they did not gain it against Sri Lanka, following which they lost by seven wickets.
This accusation is the last thing that Cook needed as he approaches a must-win Champions Trophy match against New Zealand on Sunday, even as England had been making fun of the problems that were piling up exclusively in Australia`s dressing-room.