London: Former captain Michael Vaughan said on Thursday England had been "lucky" to escape official censure over allegations of ball-tampering in the ongoing third Test against South Africa.
But Michael Atherton, another ex-England captain, said Stuart Broad and James Anderson, the two pace bowlers at the centre of the controversy, were victims of "trial by television".
The Proteas raised concerns over the state of the ball after television pictures during Tuesday's third day at Newlands in Cape Town showed Broad stopping the ball with his boot spikes and, moments later, Anderson working on the ball.
Ultimately, no formal complaint was raised by South Africa and that led the International Cricket Council (ICC) to announce the matter was closed as far as it was concerned.
With England 179 for five at lunch on Thursday's final day, well adrift of their victory target of 466, and South Africa closing in on a 1-1 series levelling victory, it seemed that what, if anything, the tourists had done had had little impact.
But Vaughan, in his column in the London Daily Telegraph, was in no doubt England had been fortunate to avoid disciplinary action.
"They were lucky to get away without an official reprimand, or even a ban because there was no doubt in my mind that they were trying to change the condition of the ball.
"They will think twice before trying it on again at The Wanderers next week. As it is, Anderson is a lucky man, I don't think anyone could have argued if he had been asked to sit out the next match, but the ICC has brushed the whole thing aside because they don't want any controversy."
Vaughan also accused the world governing body of double-standards, saying there would have been a furore if, for example, Pakistan had been involved.
"If Shoaib Akhtar or Mohammad Asif had been pictured using their fingers on the ball, there would have been uproar."
Meanwhile Atherton, who as England captain was fined in 1994 for rubbing dirt into the ball against South Africa at Lord's, questioned the Proteas' behaviour in raising the matter but then not following up with official action.
Atherton, now the cricket correspondent of British daily The Times, wrote: "Ball tampering is a serious allegation in cricket and if you make it, as South Africa effectively did by publicly raising their 'concerns' about the state of the ball, you had better be damn sure of your facts. But no formal complaint was forthcoming.
"After letting all and sundry know they felt England were up to no good on the third evening, South Africa ran for cover yesterday (Wednesday).
"South Africa's actions were akin to throwing a hand grenade in a public place - then running before the explosion."
Atherton added: "Anderson and Broad have been tainted with cheating in the minds of the public with no chance to state their case.
"It has been a trial of television: images shown, the issue dissected; a judge and jury without the defendants present.
"Roughing up one side of the ball is a way of inducing reverse-swing, and while this can happen through wear and tear during the course of an innings, it can also be done through banned methods such as picking at the ball.
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