South Africa's players "provoked the situation" which led to Kevin Pietersen's exclusion from the England team, England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier has said.
Pietersen was left out of the final Investec Test between the two nations in the summer and was then omitted from the ICC World Twenty20 squad following allegations that he sent messages to members of the South Africa team criticising then England captain Andrew Strauss during the second Test at Headingley.
He told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme: "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."
The 32-year-old 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".
Collier says Pietersen was replying to Blackberry Messenger messages sent by the opposition which he felt were unnecessary.
"That's our understanding," Collier added. "I have not seen those messages and no one has kept those messages, that's why it takes some time."
However, Collier believes Pietersen 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 continued.
"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."