Sugar might not be sweet for Du Plessis

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TELFORD VICE, Melbourne

WE’VE known for decades that sugar is bad for you, but because of sharp-eyed work by a television channel Faf du Plessis may be about to learn that lesson the hard way.

On Tuesday South Africa beat Australia by a innings and 80 runs at Bellerive Oval in Hobart to clinch the test series 2-0.

A day later Fox Sports aired footage of Du Plessis that was taken during the second test and that showed him polishing the ball using fingers taken from his mouth – in which an object that could be a sugary sweet is clearly visible.

The 18-hour window the match officials had to take action closed without them doing so, which means the matter in now in the hands of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

“The ICC has been alerted to the footage and is currently reviewing the incident from the perspective of it being a possible breach of the ICC code of conduct,” an ICC spokesperson said.

The organisation has five days to decide whether to lay charges against Du Plessis. That deadline is Sunday.

Slapping sugar-soaked saliva on the ball to keep it shiny is among the oldest tricks in the ball-tampering book. It is also among the most difficult to police.

But it is illegal in terms of law 42.3, which states that the ball may be polished “provided that no artificial substance is used”.

South Africa’s team management have left the issue with the ICC and Cricket Australia have declined to comment.

But newspapers here haven’t hesitated to climb in, with the Melbourne Age conjuring “Lollyline” as a headline – a play on the “Bodyline” Ashes series of 1932-33.

In The Australian, senior writer Peter Lalor wrote, “Notorious ball-tamperers South Africa have been at it again …”

Ben Horne of The Herald Sun, a tabloid, went with, “Self-confessed ball tamperer Faf du Plessis once again stands accused of cheating in a test match …”

Du Plessis declined to contest the match officials’ charge of illegally changing the condition of the ball during the second test against Pakistan in Dubai in October 2013.

Television cameras caught him rubbing the ball on a zip in his trousers.

In July 2014 Vernon Philander accepted without argument the officials’ view that he was guilty of using his fingers and thumb to scratch the ball.

In Dubai South Africa were docked five penalty runs by the umpires when the footage was broadcast and Du Plessis was subsequently fined 50% of his match fee by referee David Boon.   

The relevant pictures were not aired in Galle but the evidence was shown to the match referee Jeff Crowe, who took 75% of Philander’s earnings.

The ICC also took a dim view after the second test against Australia at St George’s Park in February 2014, when David Warner said in a radio interview, “We were questioning whether or not, with every delivery, (then wicketkeeper) AB de Villiers would get the ball in his hand and, with his glove, wipe the rough side.”

That earned Warner a reprimand and cost him 15% of his match fee.

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