London: South Africa have been accused of provoking the text message scandal that led to England batsman Kevin Pietersen being sent into international exile.
Pietersen was dropped for the final Test between England and South Africa earlier this year following allegations that he sent texts to South Africans players that contained criticism of then England captain Andrew Strauss during the second Test at Headingley.
The 32-year-old South Africa-born star was also axed for the one-day series against the Proteas and the current World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka.
But Pietersen apologised for sending the messages earlier this week and signed a new central contract with the ECB after the two sides agreed "a process for his re-integration into the England team".
And now England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier has claimed Pietersen was only replying to Blackberry Messenger messages sent by the opposition which he felt were unnecessary.
"That's our understanding," Collier told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme on Sunday. "I have not seen those messages and no one has kept those messages, that's why it takes some time.
"It is a very thin line between fair and unfair. These were responses to messages from certain members of the South Africa team and I would not condone an England player doing it if it was the other way around, and I certainly think they (South Africa) provoked the situation."
While Collier is keen to remove some of the blame for the situation from Pietersen's shoulders, he believes the Surrey player and the England team should have handled the situation better.
"There was definitely a policy that was happening but we shouldn't blame the South Africans, we should be above that," he said.
"I think there was a tactic which was used. I think that is sadly some of the ways of modern sport but as I say we have plenty of people who are strong in the dressing room who provide very good leadership who can deal with those situations."
Asked about the content_cn of the messages, Collier added: "Those messages were of a nature that Kevin, with definite hindsight, would have refuted straight away and moved on.
"It is trying to undermine another team and another team ethic.
"There would probably be mixed feelings (for South Africa). Certain feelings to say that maybe it worked, (there) might be other feelings that we actually might have disrupted a player and we would have been unhappy had it been one of ours."
Collier also revealed talks are ongoing between Pietersen and the England management and it will be up to team director Andy Flower to decide when he feels the batsman should return to the squad.
"When Andy Flower says to me 'I am ready to select this player' I would trust his judgment every single time," Collier added. "If the team director says he is ready, that is good enough for me.
"It takes two seconds to destroy a building and it takes a long time to build, it is the same with trust therefore we have to have face-to-face meetings.
"We have an Ashes series and we don't want a divided dressing room, we want to make sure we can move collectively.
"People can't build relationships without meetings - that is the starting point. They will happen this month."