x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Third day of Test marred by alleged South Africa ball-tampering

The controversy emerged as television images appeared to show Faf du Plessis scuffing the ball on the zipper of his pants and South Africa were penalised five runs by the umpires.

South Africa were penalised five runs for tampering with the ball on Friday. Maran Naamani / AFP
South Africa were penalised five runs for tampering with the ball on Friday. Maran Naamani / AFP

DUBAI // AB de Villiers defended South Africa against accusations of ball tampering last night, insisting that the world’s No 1 side “don’t cheat”.

Regardless, their pursuit of a series-halving win in the second Test against Pakistan was overshadowed by controversy after they were penalised for altering the condition of the ball.

Ian Gould and Rod Tucker, the umpires, summoned Graeme Smith, the Proteas captain, for a discussion at the wicket after 30 overs of Pakistan’s second innings.

The officials ordered that the ball be replaced and Gould signalled the five-run penalty.

“We are not a team that scratches the ball,” said De Villiers, South Africa’s wicket-keeper and a first-innings centurion.

“We play in a fair manner. We want to swing the ball as much as we can, we want it to reverse swing by putting more sweat on one side. We don’t cheat, as simple as that.”

Officials ruled that television replays showed South Africa’s Faf du Plessis rubbing the ball against the zip on his trouser pocket. The sanction was straight out of the cricket rulebook.

“The umpires replaced the ball and fined South Africa team five penalty runs for ball tampering,” an ICC spokesperson said.

De Villiers said that Du Plessis was the side’s designated ball-shiner, but refuted the idea that his former school colleague from Pretoria would resort to sinister means.

“I know Faffy very well and he is the last person on the field who would try something like that,” De Villiers said. “It is part of his responsibility to shine the ball, to get it to swing and to take care of it. I thought he did that really well.

“I honestly don’t know what happened there, I don’t know where the message had come from, so I was obviously very surprised.

“There was no talk about it, no warnings, nothing. It was out of nowhere and I still don’t know the facts.”

Ironically, given the amount of times Test cricket, at Dubai Sports City in particular, is watched by paltry crowds, the inflated Friday congregation was a source of much angst.

De Villiers said the crowd were “quite abusive”, while Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s captain, stopped play at one point in the morning session to report hecklers.

As a result of Misbah’s intervention, two Pakistani supporters were ejected from the stadium for verbal abuse.

“The Pakistan captain followed the correct protocol and brought this to the attention of the umpires, who, in turn, alerted the match referee,” said a Dubai Sports City spokesman. “Venue security was informed and the two individuals were identified and removed from the venue.”

The tense atmosphere created by the very public ejection of the spectators, as well as the ball-tampering incident, did not transmit itself to relations between the two teams.

“There hasn’t been a great deal of tension in this Test match – I’ve been quite surprised by that,” De Villiers said. “They are actually a pretty quiet team. They play hard, but they are not too vocal out there.

“The crowd got us going a bit. The crowd were quite abusive at times and I think a few of them were thrown out of the stadium, which tells you a story.”

The two significant extra-curricular incidents detracted from a day in which the match advanced markedly on the field.

Ten wickets fell over the course of the day, leaving Pakistan needing a mammoth 286 more to make South Africa bat again.

“Although we are in a difficult situation, we will try our best to come back strongly,” said Saeed Ajmal, the off-spinner who took six wickets in South Africa’s first innings.


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