Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Picture: REUTERS
Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Picture: REUTERS

LIONS coach Geoff Toyana hopes there is nothing crooked in Aaron Phangiso’s bowling action being declared suspect for the first time in his career after the One-Day Cup semifinal against the Warriors at the Wanderers on Wednesday.

But he confirmed that Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who protested his innocence over match-fixing claims on an Indian website on Thursday, was training with the squad.

Toyana declined to comment when asked why Thami Tsolekile was not practising with the Lions. Tsolekile did not answer calls.

Former SA, Titans and Lions player Gulam Bodi was banned from cricket for 20 years in January after admitting to his involvement in match-fixing. Tsolekile and Tsotsobe have been linked to the scandal in media reports, although no evidence has been brought against them publicly as Cricket SA have declined to give details of their investigation.

However, match-fixing suspects are likely to be suspended by Cricket SA.

Lions CE Greg Fredericks said yesterday that "we know absolutely nothing, but besides Bodi nobody has been suspended".

Left-arm spinner Phangiso has 14 days to have his action tested. The results will be sent to a specialist approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC), who will have another 14 days to decide whether Phangiso chucks, which could see him banned from bowling all or some of his deliveries. That could complicate his participation in the World T20 in India that starts on March 8. SA play their first match on March 18.

"Phangi has played international cricket for three years, and for this to come up now is really baffling," Toyana said yesterday.

"When the match officials (referee Tiffie Barnes and umpires Johan Cloete, Shaun George and Adrian Holdstock) called me to talk about his bowling action, I was really surprised.

"At age 32, he’s been called for something that has never been an issue in his career. I’m just hoping there’s nothing behind it."

Toyana said the "biggest surprise" was that Phangiso had been asked to undergo the tests today. He had agreed, Fredericks said.

"I’m upset about that," Toyana said. "I hope this is not a way to try and block him from going to the WT20. "

If Phangiso was tested as late as possible, on March 16, his fate could have been decided as late as March 24, after SA’s first two group matches. ICC sources said yesterday the event technical committee would probably allow SA to replace Phangiso even if he was banned in the tournament.

Toyana insisted Phangiso was an utterly orthodox finger spinner and not a chucker: "I’ll go back and look at the video footage of the game to see if I can pick up anything, but his strength has always been his change of pace and his guile. He doesn’t bowl the one that goes the other way."

As for Tsotsobe: "Lonwabo has been coming to our training sessions, but he’s not match fit yet."

What about Tsolekile?

"Thami has not trained with us for the past six weeks," Toyana said.

Why not?

"Can I not answer that?"

A ll this, with Toyana about to take his team to Cape Town to play the Cobras in the One-Day Cup final at Newlands on Sunday.

I’m upset about that. I hope this is not a way to try and block him from going to the WT20. For this to come up at this stage of his career is really surprising