PETER SIDDLE launched an heroic all-out attack to bowl Australia to their first Test victory of the summer, then gave an equally impassioned defence of his character after being embroiled in bizarre ball-tampering allegations on Tuesday.
On a dramatic afternoon after Australia drew first blood in the battle for the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy, headlines were being generated off the field, too, with Sri Lanka's informal complaints of ball tampering, one of the most serious charges in the sport, coming to light.
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Siddle in ball-tampering claim
Sri Lankan media have accused Peter Siddle of picking at the seam of the ball after an image allegedly taken from the first match in Hobart surfaced on social media.
Umpires cleared Siddle and Ed Cowan of any wrongdoing on Tuesday night. They ''found no evidence to suggest that the condition of the ball had been changed'', match referee Chris Broad said in a statement.
It is understood, however, that Broad has asked Channel Nine to send footage to the ICC, which may lay any charges for up to 24 hours after a match ends. Any further action is considered unlikely.
The drama has lit the fuse for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, 17 years after champion off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was called for throwing by Darrell Hair at that venue. It has also prompted questions as to why the Sri Lankans raised the query with the match referee, albeit informally, despite skipper Mahela Jayawardene's later admitting they did not have any proof.
The drama started on Sunday after the Sri Lanka team manager, Charith Senanayake, complained about two incidents during their first innings.
The first involved Siddle, the man of the match, and allegedly occurred late on Saturday afternoon. Pictures of the incident involved were circulated on social media on Tuesday.
The other allegation centred on an incident involving Cowan in the 88th over of the innings, on Sunday.
''I wake up in the morning, I thought today if I ran out there and ball-tampered in front of 15 cameras and a lot of people watching the game, I will get away with it,'' Siddle, who returned figures of 9-104, said sarcastically. ''That is a ridiculous statement.
''Why would I want to jeopardise that when I know we can go out there and do everything in the spirit of the game and win? That's how we play and we always play …
''There's a picture going around on Twitter, but on Twitter you can say what you want and there's no consequences. If you took a picture of every time I turn around and run into bowl, it will look exactly like that same picture. If you watch a video of it, you would see me turning around the ball and running in, but if you take a snap of a still picture you can make anything look unreal.''
Broad alerted Australia coach Mickey Arthur and Sri Lankan team management of his investigations during tea on Sunday. Arthur did not make the Australian players aware of the drama unfolding around them.
''The ICC have made it very clear there was nothing there,'' Australian captain Michael Clarke said.
''I 100 per cent believe we always play in the spirit of the game. I don't think any of the Australian players would ever jeopardise that or do anything to ruin our reputation.
''We play hard on the field but we understand there is a line you can't cross and we play the right way."
While Jayawardene tried to defuse the tension at his post-match press conference, Senanayake had earlier told Fairfax Media the Sri Lankans believed the actions had been ''illegal''.
''What you should write in the paper is if someone commits a crime it is up to the authorities to arrest the culprit,'' Senanayake said. ''We saw something on TV which we brought up to the match referee, that's it. We saw something which we thought was illegal and which has been brought to the notice of the authorities.''
Jayawardene said no official complaint had been made ''because we don't have any proof'', but defended the decision to speak to Broad.
''For the TV guys to zoom in obviously they saw something funny,'' Jayawardene said.
''It's up to the officials to find out from the TV guys whether there was something funny happening, and is that the reason they're showing it?
''Otherwise they don't have to show something like that on national television where millions of people are watching this match. We don't have any proof, we didn't see, so we can't make any official complaint so we'll move on from it.''
Umpires make ''frequent and irregular inspections of the ball'' in accordance with the laws of the game but chose not to lay any charges against the Australians.
''In the opinion of the umpires, there was no evidence to suggest that the condition of the ball was changed,'' Broad said.