DUBAI - South Africa's Faf du Plessis has been fined 50 percent of his match fee after pleading guilty to tampering with the ball during the ongoing second Test against Pakistan in Dubai, the ICC said Saturday. South Africa were penalised five runs and umpires ordered the ball to be changed on Friday, and match referee David Boon of Australia swiftly summoned du Plessis.
"Du Plessis is fined 50 percent of his match fee after breaching the ICC code of conduct on Friday," the International Cricket Council (ICC) said. The 29-year-old is the first South African to be charged with ball tampering. The incident took place in the 31st over of Pakistan's second innings on Friday afternoon when du Plessis was seen on television rubbing the ball in the vicinity of the zip of his trouser pocket, the ICC said.
Boon said: "After discussions with du Plessis, he has elected not to contest that charge, but I am also satisfied that this was not part of a deliberate and/or prolonged attempt to unfairly manipulate the condition of the ball, and that the imposition of a fine of 50 percent of his match fee is appropriate considering the circumstances." The ICC statement said: "The TV umpire Paul Reiffel brought this to the notice of the on-field umpires who, in accordance with clause 42.1.1 of the ICC Test match playing conditions, which deals with the match ball -- changing its condition -- replaced the ball, awarded five penalty runs to Pakistan and reported du Plessis."
But former Pakistan players blasted the game's governing body for taking what they saw as overly lenient action against du Plessis, saying a player from the sub-continent would have been banned. Pakistan's Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi and India's Sachin Tendulkar have all been banned for ball tampering in the past, while Pakistan were docked five runs for tampering during the Oval Test against England in 2006.
"I am surprised at the decision," Akhtar told television. "Even if South Africa wins the Test, this match has become dirty." Akhtar, who was banned for two one-days and fined 75 percent of his match fee for tampering during a tri-series in Sri Lanka in 2003, said that Pakistan have "no say" in the ICC. "We can't raise our voice, so this will go on like this," he added.
"How can you give such a lenient decision on such a hard evidence. He should have been banned for six months at least and the captain Graeme Smith should also have been punished," said former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif. "If you look at the rules, they (ICC) ban the captain on slow over rate but not on ball tampering done in front of the whole world. I am sure had it been a Pakistani or a sub-continent player he would have been banned."
Meanwhile, Najam Sethi, the chairman of the interim management committee running the PCB, has said the Pakistan board wants clarification from the ICC on the "inconsistency" in the application of the ball-tampering rule. Sethi tweeted on Saturday evening: "PCB is writing letter to ICC seeking explanation of inconsistency by match referee in application of ball tampering rule to Afridi vs Faf."
Waqar Younis, speaking to ESPNcricinfo after the Test finished, also believed the fine was lenient: "I think, to be very honest, Faf got away with it with just 50% of the match fee. I thought it was a bit of frustration from the South Africans, they did not need to do that. It leaves a big question mark on South Africa's credibility." Ball-tampering, which is a level two offence, comes with a fine of 50 to 100% of the match fee, and/or a ban of one Test or two limited-overs games.
South African team manager Mohammed Moosajee said the team accepted the decision which was announced earlier in the day by match referee David Boon. "As a team we proceeded not to contest it... because as per the ICC regulations a full hearing could lead to more severe punitive measures which could include a heftier fine or even a match ban," he said.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq said the matter was between the ICC and South Africa. "I think it has nothing to do with us," said Misbah. "It's a matter totally between match officials and their team, it's none of our business."
South African vice-captain AB de Villiers backed du Plessis on Friday, saying: "Honestly, we're not the team that scratches the ball. We play in a fair manner. Obviously we want to swing the ball as much as you can and try to get it to reverse. We don't cheat, it's as simple as that."