South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis has been found guilty of ball tampering by the International Cricket Council for using mints to alter the condition of the ball, but has been cleared to play in the Adelaide day-night Test.
Du Plessis faced a marathon three-hour hearing with ICC match referee Andy Pycroft at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday afternoon. The Proteas skipper had been charged with 'changing the condition of the ball in breach of Law 42.3' by the ICC CEO Dave Richardson following the tourists' victory in the Hobart Test.
Du Plessis pleaded not guilty to the charge but was fined 100 per cent of his match fee by Pycroft, who found the captain guilty of a breach of the ICC's Code of Conduct. Pycroft had the option to suspend the Proteas skipper for one Test, but opted not to.
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Du Plessis has 48 hours from receiving the written judgement to appeal the verdict, and is now expected to lodge an appeal as soon as possible.
An update to the ICC's Code of Conduct earlier this year meant "the offence was treated as a first offence", an ICC statement said. Du Plessis had previously been fined for ball tampering during a Test match in 2013.
Pycroft heard evidence from the second Test umpires, who confirmed they would have acted immediately had they seen du Plessis applying saliva to the ball with a mint in his mouth. Footage of that incident subsequently emerged following the Test, prompting the ICC chief executive to take action.
Pycroft also heard evidence from an official at the Marylebone Cricket Club, which is the guardians of the Laws of cricket. MCC Head of Cricket John Stephenson told the hearing the MCC considered du Plessis' use of a mint as an artificial substance being transferred to the ball.
Du Plessis landed in trouble after television footage showed him shining the ball with a mint in his mouth during the fourth day's play in the second Commonwealth Bank Test against Australia last week.
Law 42.3 of the MCC's Laws of Cricket states that a fielder may polish a ball, "provided that no artificial substance is used".
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During the 54th over, with Australia 5-150, Nine's Wide World of Sport cameras showed du Plessis – with a round, white mint on his tongue – licking his finger before rubbing the Kookaburra and repeating the act at least two more times.
Wicketkeeper Peter Nevill was out the very next ball, fending off a short-pitched delivery to gully. Joe Mennie fell later in the same over, given out lbw to a low full toss that swung in towards leg stump.
Du Plessis, who has long been South Africa's player in charge of shining the ball, was fined by the ICC for rubbing the ball on a trouser zipper during a 2013 Test against Pakistan. In mid-2014 Vernon Philander was also fined by the ICC for scratching the surface of the ball during a Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.
Cricket South Africa's ethics sub-committee chairman Vusi Pikoli later raised concerns about the national team's "reputation".
The South Africa team has been indignant about the furore surrounding their captain's actions and coach Russell Domingo admitted it has affected the team's preparations as they seek to inflict a 3-0 result on Australia.
"It hasn't been an ideal preparation, there's no doubt about it, I would be lying if I said it has been spectacular preparation.
"(But) I am comfortable with the way we've gone about it, we are a unified team, we stand by our captain, and we stand by the decisions we've made.
"They might not have always come across as ideal, but in that particular time and space we thought they were the right things to do."
South African opener Hashim Amla laughed off the accusations as a joke before last Friday.
"The reason everyone is here is to stand together, really, and to show solidarity to something ... we thought was actually a joke," Amla said at the MCG.
"It's not April, but the allegation against Faf was ... a really ridiculous thing. As a team, we're standing strong, we've done nothing wrong. It's basically a joke."
Amla remained adamant that the team's leader had no case to answer.
"We've done nothing wrong and I know Faf has done absolutely nothing wrong," he said. "I chew bubble gum while I'm on the field - you want me to brush my teeth after lunch? We're standing out on the field for two hours ... there was no malicious intent whatsoever."
"I've had sweets in my mouth, bubblegum in my mouth, biltong, nuts - I'm not sure what the big deal is. To a lot of people, it's sounding more like sour sweets."
The furore surrounding the team intensified on Monday at the Adelaide airport when a Proteas official clashed with media.
Zunaid Wadee, the Proteas' security official, was attempting to shield du Plessis from questions regarding the mint controversy when he physically shoved Nine Network reporter Will Crouch.
Wadee pushed, shoulder charged and knocked a microphone from Crouch's hands before shoving the reporter against a glass door as du Plessis, smiling and giving a thumbs up, left the building.
"This is the third incident of a reporter aggressively harassing our players," team manager Mohammed Moosajee later said in a statement.
"The 'reporter' at the airport disrespected us and continued to harass Faf for comment. The 'reporter', who also had no official accreditation, then proceeded to lunge towards Faf with an unknown object causing a direct breach of security protocol.
"Throughout the tour we have respected all our media obligations and treated media with utmost respect. At the same time, we would like to see this respect reciprocated and will not accept such behaviour as displayed by the Channel 9 News reporter."
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