Kevin Pietersen suffered a delay to the process of reintegration which is expected to lead to him being welcomed back into the England camp in Mumbai in a fortnight as his main employer, the ECB, was forced to apologise for suggesting that he had been the victim of a cunning South African plan.
Pietersen was expected to meet Andy Flower, the England team director, who must give the green light before the batsman can be recalled, in London on Monday after being given permission to leave South Africa by the Delhi Daredevils between their fixtures in the Champions League Twenty20 competition.
However, those discussions were put back by 24 hours after Pietersen's flight from Johannesburg to London on Sunday was cancelled. He tweeted on Monday evening that he would now be in England for only 48 hours, during which any face-to-face talks with the captain, Alastair Cook, and other senior players must be squeezed in, as this is the only lengthy break between Delhi matches before Flower and the 16 players who have already been selected for the four-Test tour of India leave on Thursday week for a training camp in Dubai.
The Daredevils play Auckland in Durban on Friday, Perth in Cape Town on Sunday and the Titans at their home ground in Centurion in their last qualifying match. If Delhi, who won their opening game against Kolkata at the weekend, qualify for the semi-finals, Pietersen would almost certainly be unable to travel to Dubai but England have already indicated that he could go straight to India where the first of their three warm-up matches before the first Test begins in Mumbai on 30 October – provided Flower has deemed the reintegration process successful.
The ECB has spent the last week clearing up yet more mess caused by the Pietersen fall-out, though in this case it was the fault of its own chief executive, David Collier.
He had infuriated South African players and administrators with a succession of clumsy hints during a recent interview on BBC radio's Sportsweek programme that they had coaxed Pietersen into sending the messages that have caused all the problems – saying they had "provoked the situation", as a "tactic" and "policy", that was "trying to undermine another team and another team ethic".
Amid hints of legal action, and demands for a retraction, Francois du Plessis, a member of the South Africa squad who is also involved in the Champions League with the Chennai Super Kings, had summed up the bemusement of the players. "We were actually quite surprised how much contact there was coming from his side," he said of Pietersen in an interview that appeared in the Manchester Evening News. "It all came out because it was true. The text messages were true. As a team, we were quite surprised how much he was giving us."
So on Monday the ECB issued a statement revealing that Collier has apologised for and withdrawn almost all of those accusations – with the exception of the suggestion that Pietersen had been responding to messages from South Africa players, which remains the subject of disagreement between the two countries.
"Cricket South Africa has made clear to ECB that the electronic messages were not part of any initiative or plan to undermine the England team or players," said the statement. "ECB has unreservedly accepted that assurance and wishes to reiterate that it has no issue at all with CSA – or the Proteas players – on this matter and appreciates that the South African and England players follow the highest ethical standards of behaviour.
"Although the two Boards do not agree on the sequence of events regarding any responses to messages between Kevin Pietersen and certain Proteas players, CSA and SACA [the South African Cricketers Association] accept Mr Collier's apology based upon his earlier utterances that the team may have acted in a way which was underhand.
"Both CSA and ECB regard this matter as now closed and will not comment on the confidential information shared in discussion between the Boards."
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