Root: No suspicions Aussies tampered in Ashes
ENGLAND captain Joe Root has hosed down the idea he harboured suspicions Australia were ball tampering in the Ashes.
Bowler Stuart Broad didn't make any allegations against Australia, but recent cryptic comments about the hosts' reverse-swing in the five-Test series have ignited a torrent of speculation.
Root adopted a more diplomatic approach after his side's day-night Test in Auckland, which England lost heavily.
"Not to my knowledge. I personally wasn't aware of anything going on throughout that series," Root said.
Broad suggested Australia "reverse swung the ball in nearly all of those matches, sometimes in conditions where you wouldn't expect the ball to reverse".
The stain resulting from the cheating scandal in Cape Town will stay with Australia for some time, even if Steve Smith is sacked as skipper.
Smith insisted in his confessional press conference that "you can ask questions as much as you like, but I can promise you this is the first time it's happened".
The captain was referring to Cameron Bancroft's ineffective attempt to scuff the ball with sticky tape, a ploy that Smith rubber stamped at lunch on day three of the third Test against South Africa.
The team's conduct in previous Tests under Smith, especially a recent 4-0 success at home against England, is now the subject of immense speculation and scrutiny.
Footage being widely circulated on social media of Bancroft putting something in his pocket in the SCG rooms is a prime example.
It was not sugar, as has been suggested, but rather chewing gum.
A gastro bug floored Smith and teammates during the previous Test in Melbourne. Players were under strict instructions to exercise hygiene precautions, such as using a spoon rather than their hands to take gum from the communal bowl.
David Warner was also in charge of working on the ball in that game, rather than Bancroft.
But Smith and Warner's incredible error in judgment at Newlands has created a stigma that will prove hard to shake, some pundits may find it hard to offer the same presumption of innocence they normally would.
Footage of Pat Cummins accidentally standing on the ball during the third Test, a gaffe that triggered laughter and little else from umpires, is once again being replayed on TV news bulletins in South Africa.
Mitchell Starc's unplayable reverse-swinging yorkers previously created awe around the world, now some past and present players will undoubtedly cock an eyebrow when Australia start to get the old ball hooping.
That is despite the fact many Test teams, especially Australia and South Africa in the current series, have achieved remarkably early reverse-swing in recent years.
"It (reverse-swing) has been around for a long time, even when we've been to England years ago. A lot depends on the wicket," Proteas veteran Hashim Amla said earlier this month.