During the ongoing third Test against New Zealand, Australian umpires Rod Tucker and Bruce Oxenford ordered the ball to be changed, apparently because of their concern South Africa, the fielding side, had deliberately affected its condition. However, no charges were pressed against their captain Faf du Plessis, or any other fielder, at the end of the third day’s play.
What really happened?
The South African fielders were seen repeatedly throwing the ball – with an side-arm action- on the ground, trying to scuff up one side of the ball by hurling that side on the ground. Some commentators said they saw the South Africans holding the seam of the ball horizontally to the ground before they hurled it on bounce to the wicketkeeper.
What did the umpires do?
In the middle of the 59th over, they asked for the ball, had a look at it, and checked the shape of the ball by squeezing it through the ring. Satisfied that the ball had gone out of shape, they changed the ball.
What was Faf du Plessis’s reaction?
Clearly unhappy, he had a chat with the umpires who didn’t budge. That South Africans didn’t take it all that well was reflected in the fact that little later on, Vernon Philander rolled the ball all along the ground from the outfield.
What does the law say?
In 2007, the ICC techincal committee added a line to the clause under Law 41, which covers ball tampering, to prevent abuse of deliberate throwing.
Can it be done?
This is what former England captain Mike Atherton wrote about it once: “If deliberate, it takes a high level of skill to do this: first, the fielder has to gather the ball with the rough side underneath, pointing to the ground; then he has to throw it, side-arm, so that the rough side stays underneath, and then he has to aim accurately so that it lands just in front of the wicketkeeper, on the abrasive part of the square.
“There is nothing in the laws of the game to prevent this. There is, however, mention of it in the code of conduct that governs international cricket. It says that “deliberately throwing the ball into the ground for the purpose of roughing it up” shall not be permitted. How do you decide as an umpire what is deliberate and what is not? “
Has Faf been found guilty of ball tampering before?
Yes, the most famous incident came last year in Australai, during the second Test in Hobart, when he caught on camera applying saliva to the ball with a mint in his mouth. He was fined his full match fee and given three demerit points. He pleaded not guilty, and the episode caused quite a controversy.
Has Faf done it before Australia incident?
Yes, and he even pleaded guilty once. In 2013, in a Test against Pakistan in Dubai, cameras caught him scuffing the ball against the zip on his trousers. The umpires penalised South Africa by giving Pakistan 5 runs, and changed the ball. Du Plessis was fined 50 per cent of his match fee.