Craig Overton was handed a two-game ban after Somerset's County Championship match against Sussex in September.

ECB refutes suggestion of interference in Craig Overton disciplinary process

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The England and Wales Cricket Board has denied any suggestion that it interfered in a disciplinary case involving Somerset and England Lions seamer Craig Overton after he was sanctioned for telling a Pakistan-born opponent to "go back to your own f***ing country".

It emerged on Thursday that Overton was handed a two-game ban after being found guilty of a level-one breach - the lowest of four ECB directives - for comments he made to Sussex spinner Ashar Zaidi during a County Championship match at Hove in September.

The verdict was handed down by the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) - an independent arm of the ECB - after hearing statements from umpires and players in the match.

An ECB spokesman told Press Association Sport that it remains content with the CDC's handling of the case and Overton, who denied making the comment, was subsequently selected for this winter's England Performance Programme.

Overton's availability for that squad - a group of young players identified as having potential to play for England - did not affect the CDC's decision, according to the ECB.

"The Cricket Discipline Commission is an independent body which operates at arm's length from the ECB," the ECB spokesman said.

"Craig Overton's selection for the EPP squad would have played no part whatsoever in the CDC's ruling in this matter. The ECB refutes any suggestion of interference or bias in the proper disciplinary process."

Overton's sanction came just a year after Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale was banned following an abusive on-field confrontation with Lancashire's Ashwell Prince.

Gale was suspended for four games and prevented from lifting the County Championship trophy in 2014 after he described the former South African batsman as a "Kolpak f*****". On that occasion an ECB complaint to the CDC about Gale's behaviour saw the ban extended, after an initial two-match sanction.

The ECB believes the case involving Overton is different, although Yorkshire could yet seek clarification over the matter.

Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie, in Australia preparing for his first season in charge of Big Bash League franchise Adelaide Strikers, posted a link to the Guardian's story on Twitter on Thursday night with the words: "There is a strong chance that @YorkshireCCC will be seeking clarification on this..............."

The reigning two-time County champions are yet to get in contact with the ECB, which confirmed Overton had been reported for a level-one offence. Gale was initially reported on a level-two breach in 2014.

"Following the incident, the on-field umpires sought advice from the ECB's cricket department, who referred the matter directly to the chairman of the Cricket Discipline Commission, Mr Gerard Elias, QC," the ECB spokesman said.

"After reviewing the umpires' report, the chairman of the CDC gave clear guidance that this should be reported as a level-one offence and that no further action would be taken by the CDC.

"The automatic penalty for a level-one offence was subsequently applied and this took Craig Overton to nine points, the threshold for an automatic suspension."

Overton was called up during England's one-day international series against New Zealand in June, along with his twin brother Jamie, although he was plagued by disciplinary issues last summer.

The 21-year-old incurred two previous charges in 2015, for physical contact on the field against Worcestershire and then for abusive language against Hampshire, before the latest charge at Hove triggered an automatic suspension.

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