England are not Ashes cheats, insists Onions

England were planning all along to keep their celebrations low key until they have won the Ashes outright again.

Graham Onions
Graham Onions

After a day of accusations, evidence, denials and conviction on subjects ranging from silicone-enhanced loopholes, recreational smoking, unseemly arrogance and disorderly urination, it seems they may have little choice in the matter.

Kevin Pietersen stuck up for himself on Twitter after reports suggesting he and other batsmen, on either side, have been fooling Hot Spot by placing silicone tape on their bats to defeat the thermal-imaging technology used by the decision review system to detect bat-on-ball impact.

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Within hours of England retaining the Ashes at Emirates Old Trafford, a clutch of the players who did so were photographed and depicted smoking outside a bar in Manchester.

Then yesterday morning, it emerged spinner Monty Panesar – currently on an England and Wales Cricket Board incremental contract and therefore strictly an employee of his county Sussex only – had been fined by police for urinating while drunk on the heads of nightclub bouncers in Brighton.

Finally, England’s class of 2013 were accused by former Australia great Shane Warne of behaving with arrogance and smugness during this summer’s Ashes.

The ECB declined to comment on either the rights and wrongs of international sportsmen smoking in public – an entirely legal pastime, of course – or on Panesar’s errant behaviour, which is the subject of an internal investigation by Sussex.

Up in Durham, where England were yesterday practising before the start of tomorrow’s fourth Investec Test, Graham Onions was merely hoping to get on with his own business – trying to force his way into the seam attack for a 10th Test cap, on his home ground.

Instead, he first had to contend with the inevitable controversy surrounding those allegations that sharp practice is in vogue to circumvent DRS.

“Bearing in mind I’ve just been called into the squad and the first I’ve heard of it was when I came into the changing rooms, the accusation from my point of view is crazy really,” he said. “It just doesn’t sound right, and I know it’s not right.

“None of the England lads would use anything on their bats.”

DRS controversy has stalked this summer’s Ashes throughout, often overshadowing the action.

Onions has not been involved in the middle yet, and has not played in a Test for more than a year, but may yet have compelling credentials to exploit conditions at a venue he knows so well – if England decide to spare someone else’s workload.

Before then, though, there were more questions for him about silicone.

“Obviously people use tape to heal cracks, or if they’ve got a favourite bat to try and keep it as long as possible – but nothing that would potentially cover up any kind of nicks,” he said. “The accusation is ridiculous really.”

Pietersen made his feelings clear with a series of Tweets yesterday.

Shortly before he and his team-mates arrived at Chester-le-Street, Pietersen sent the first of three tweets in less than 20 minutes – each making his indignation ever more clear about the accusations.

The first began: “Horrible journalism yet again!

“My name brought up in hotspot crisis, suggesting I use silicone to prevent nicks showing! Such hurtful lies.”

Pietersen then wrote: “I am never afraid of getting out! If I nick it, I’ll walk ... to suggest I cheat by covering my bat with silicone infuriates me.”

Onions added: “I think it’s obviously a little bit unfair.

“He’s obviously going to be a little bit hurt by that, because Kevin’s a very fair guy – and the accusations are wrong.”

The ECB is understood to be demanding an “explanation and apology” from Australian broadcaster Channel 9 over their claims, and the International Cricket Council spelled out that no inquiry is planned.

Cricketers down the ages have not been above tricks of the trade, which are not – initially at least – outside the Laws of the game.

Asked whether he can understand why some contemporary players might be tempted down that route, Onions said: “They might do – but I know the England cricketers don’t.

“The England cricketers don’t put anything on their bats; they use nothing that would stop the fair decision being made.

“For people to be asking about that, from my point of view, is not right.

“For people to be accused isn’t right.”

All Onions wants, of course, is the chance to take part in England’s push for a third successive Ashes series victory.

At the prospect of joining forces this week, he said: “It would be amazing. To get into this side is hard work.

“As a young boy, I’ve grown up here and played all my cricket here. You get a buzz coming into the ground... and it’d be fantastic to play for England on Friday.”

Time to scrap DRS says Flintoff

Former England captain Andrew Flintoff last night called for the decision review system to be scrapped and defended the players who were pictured smoking after the Ashes were secured.

Yesterday saw claims that batsmen have been fooling Hot Spot by placing silicone tape on their bats to defeat the thermal-imaging technology used by the decision review system (DRS) to detect bat-on-ball impact.

It is the latest in a long series of DRS issues to have arisen during the Ashes series, and the technology that was introduced towards the end of 2009 has many detractors as well as its advocates.

Flintoff falls into the former camp, and said: “I’ve never been a fan from the start. I’d just scrap it and move on.

“These accusations with the stickers on the bats seem ridiculous. They’ve asked them and they’ve said they don’t use them.”

Yorkshire duo Joe Root and Tim Bresnan, plus Graeme Swann, were shown with cigarettes in hand by the Daily Mail, but Flintoff does not see a big problem from a cricket perspective.

He said: “When I started playing for England there were seven or eight smokers in the dressing room so it’s something that’s been there, people have smoked for a long time.”