- England news
Morgan escalates Pietersen row with Broad accusation
Piers Morgan, the former British tabloid editor turned American chat show host, has escalated the conflict between Kevin Pietersen and the England team and officials by alleging that two of Pietersen's team-mates are linked to the parody Twitter account that Pietersen found so offensive.
The allegations involve two Nottinghamshire players - Stuart Broad, England's Twenty20 captain, and Alex Hales, who took his place at the top of the order in England's t20 side after Pietersen's stand-off with the ECB had led to his enforced retirement from one-day cricket.
The dispute drags on while Pietersen and his advisers pursue negotiations with the ECB in what seems to be an increasingly forlorn hope that he will win a reprieve in time to be named in England's squad for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka month. The deadline for the squad to be announced is Saturday.
Morgan, a close friend of Pietersen, took to Twitter, the social network where the debate is raging, to accuse the ECB of "double standards" in lecturing the player about the overriding need for team unity while overlooking a lack of team unity elsewhere, in the shape of personal hostility towards Pietersen from some of his team-mates.
What is intended to support Pietersen's contention to ECB officials in ongoing discussions that he is the victim, not the problem, in the England dressing room could prove to be counterproductive, as the ECB may conclude that emotions are running too high to risk naming Pietersen in their World Twenty20 party.
An increasingly fantastical affair has also caused the originator of the Pietersen parody account, Richard Bailey, a 20-something scientist from Nottingham, to apologise for the offence he has caused and insist that no England players were involved.
ESPNcricinfo's investigations last week found no evidence that any England player had been actively involved in Bailey's account, and passed on all information gathered to senior officials of the ECB.
Indeed, in Broad's case, our investigations suggest that Broad was entirely unaware of the account and that Bailey, not a close friend of the England captain, is now deeply embarrassed by an outcome he could barely have imagined.
Morgan's accusation relies upon the fact that Hales was the first follower of the Pietersen parody account. Claims that Broad was involved seem to rest upon a tweet he sent on the same evening that the account was opened saying that he had lent Bailey a pair of socks, therefore putting him in the same place, if not necessarily in the know.
"Put a sock in it," was the tacit response last night of one former England coach, David Lloyd, who used Twitter to argue that it was time to move on as the ECB attempted to stop the affair running out of control.
Pietersen's England future is in the balance after England refused to pick him for the Lord's Test against South Africa, despite him appearing a video in which he made himself available for all forms of cricket and publicly apologising for mistakes he may have made.
The ECB, in the person of England managing director Hugh Morris, refused to accept the apology because Pietersen had not explained "derogatory" text messages about members of the England dressing room that he had allegedly sent to South Africa players after the Headingley Test.
Nottinghamshire have a long history of antagonism towards Pietersen. He left the county after his kit was famously thrown off the dressing room balcony at Tent Bridge and the views of many involved at the time - Broad and Hales were not at the county - have not noticeably softened in the meantime.
A third England and Nottinghamshire player, Graeme Swann, was also dismissive of Pietersen's captaincy skills in his autobiography, and his relationship with Pietersen is strained, although nobody has suggested that he is in anyway involved with this latest brouhaha.
Pietersen's brother, Bryan Pietersen, also took to Twitter to threaten the instigator of the parody account and suggest his phone should be thrown into the River Trent, which runs close to the Nottinghamshire ground.
In the corridors of the ECB, as this affair drags on, rivers are certainly running deep.