South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day March 5, 2014

Clarke sorry for Steyn anger


'It was a long day' - Michael Clarke

Australia's captain Michael Clarke has admitted he overstepped the mark in a fiery confrontation with Dale Steyn as the decisive Test against South Africa at Newlands ticked towards its thrilling conclusion, and also acknowledged a caution from the umpires about his side's treatment of the ball on the final day.

As the umpires prepared to call the start of the final hour, Steyn and James Pattinson became involved in an exchange which Clarke stepped into. His angry words to Steyn escalated the stand-off until the umpire Aleem Dar was forced to step between them. In the aftermath of victory, Clarke conceded his fault though not referring to Steyn by name. The pair spoke warmly after hostilities were ceased by the final wicket.

"You definitely had two extremely passionate teams that wanted to win this Test. There were obviously a lot of words throughout the game. Let's call it banter," Clarke said. "Do you know what? Honestly, if anybody was out of line it was me and I apologise to the opposition player I was out of line to.

"A player who I have the utmost respect for, who tries to kill me every time bat, who batted exceptionally well, and I was out of line. If any player on either team, it was me who was out of line. Let's just say he [Steyn] got me at a bad time. We just had a decision that didn't go our way that I would have liked to have seen go our way but that's the game.

"And certainly as captain of your country you've got to be able to cop that on the chin. Something was said to one of my team mates. I seem to make this mistake a few times but I jumped in after him. It doesn't matter what happened, what I said was something out of character and I apologise for that. I shouldn't have said what I said."

This was far from the only flashpoint on a final day that also featured queries over the care of the ball, a beamer delivered by Pattinson and a confrontation between Australia's players and the umpires following the reversal of a decision to give out Vernon Philander on some rather ambiguous evidence.

During the 74th over of the innings, the umpires Dar and Kumar Dhamasena called over touring captain Michael Clarke and inspected the ball while appearing to offer a caution against more bounce throws. The wicketkeeper Brad Haddin had taken to waiting for the ball to bounce until he took returns from the field, often allowing it to bounce on the pitch itself.

Several subsequent conversations were had between Dar, Dharmasena, and other Australians including Haddin and Ryan Harris. It is within the power of the umpires to impose a five-run penalty and have the batsmen choose a replacement ball of similar age if they feel "the deterioration in the condition of the ball is greater than is consistent with the use it has received".

Clarke confirmed the nature of the conversation and said his players had abided by the umpires' ruling once it had been delivered to him. "The umpires were up me about a few things. That was one of them," he said. "I always believed that if you're in the ring you should be throwing the ball on the full because it's a 20 metre throw. If the guys are on the boundary you can accept that some guys can't throw it that far.

"Whatever criticism we cop for that I'm more than happy to cop but I think our players understand there is a line and we know not to overstep that. We were asked by the umpires to make sure we were throwing the ball on the full and I think we accepted that and listened to that."

Tensions over the two teams' care of the ball has simmered since the second Test in Port Elizabeth, after which the opener David Warner openly questioned the legality of South Africa's handling, particularly AB de Villiers' use of his wicketkeeping gloves to rub the ball. The hosts gained sharp reverse swing on the fourth day as they rattled to victory.

That allegation drew heavy criticism from South African team management and an ICC fine for Warner, although Harris later repeated the accusation with the qualification that it must have been legal because the umpires did not step in. The umpires were seen talking to de Villiers on day one of the Newlands match and gesturing about his use of the wicketkeeping gloves on the ball.

Faf du Plessis added another chapter to the affair when he expressed surprise on the third evening that Australia managed to gain sharp reverse swing within 30 overs, having not achieved any deviation through the air at St George's Park. Having heard of this allegation, the tourists made their displeasure known to du Plessis on the final day, being picked up doing so on the stump microphones.

Last year, du Plessis was fined 50% of his match fee during the second Test against Pakistan in Dubai after being captured on camera rubbing the ball near the zipper of his trouser pocket.

Relations between du Plessis and the Australians were not enhanced by his contention that the visitors circled him "like wild dogs" when he chose to pick the ball up while batting on day three. Warner was heard to greet du Plessis with mock howls, before offering him a send-off when he was dismissed by Steve Smith shortly before the tea interval.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 9, 2014, 7:17 GMT

    This is Clarke's modus operandi; it's how he goes about doing things. Win - at any cost - and then say oh I am SO sorry for that! afterwards. You can see he clearly gets a kick out of it. Because he hasn't evolved from schoolyard bully and is why he is universally disliked so much. He still has a long, long way to grow up yet.

  • Venkat on March 9, 2014, 1:07 GMT

    A spitting, cussing, expletive laden ranting Steyn on Satellite TV world wide . . comes right into my family room on the big screen on HD . . . for impressionable children to see it clearly. . . . . good role model for our future generation. No wonder he got that reaction from Michael Clarke . . .the other SA players did not elicit that from Clarke on his admittedly bad day, did they?

  • Android on March 8, 2014, 18:00 GMT

    For the record, I'm a diehard SA fanatical passionate crazy supporter. My 2cents is that I admire each team equally for a tremendous battle of nerve, courage, determination, endurance and even for showing their testosterone. Each team battled as in war! Where in war is there seriously place for kind words? BUT in the truest sportsmanship manner which is honestly the reserve of this great GAME, these brave warriors showed their class and dignity by reconciling when the time came. If ordinary people could behave like this more often, perhaps the world would be a better place to live. I take my hat off to Michael and his boys AND Smith and his boys. These are indeed the 2 finest cricketing teams in the world, not wishing to exclude the many exemplary gentlemen who bring the true cricket lover great joy and peace every time they take to the field.

  • Richard on March 8, 2014, 1:48 GMT

    Thosar, does anything come out of your brain other than bile? We are proud to have beaten the English and South Africans, when all the experts said we couldn't. You forget about what Steve Waugh and many, many other Australians have done for the poor and downtrodden of India? Normal mums and dads donate their hard earned money to India to help some poor kid to smile and have done it purely for altruistic and generous reasons only. There is no need for your comments and the minor issue you speak of has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. Those 'old people' just beat England 5-nil and the number 1 ranked team at home. The same 'old people' are ranked number 2 in the world. "This will stop very soon" - when? Tell us when.

  • Android on March 7, 2014, 18:24 GMT

    dnt ever mess up with styn he will fire at u

  • Kendal on March 7, 2014, 5:55 GMT

    Clarke had the decency and dignity to apologise for what he felt was going too far. No mention of the howling at Faf like dogs (which I suspect was Warner - correct me if I'm wrong). The league cricketers I umpire would be embarrassed about that. Childish. Faf shouldn't have said that either but the reaction was worse.

  • Friend on March 7, 2014, 2:36 GMT

    Pathetic behavior from Clarke. There is no use feeling sorry after committing mistake, you should not do it in the first place. I doubt if he would have said sorry had Oz lost or drawn the test. Aussies, first learn some sportsmanship. You have to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Especially for this generation Aussies, there is the perfect role model of a cricketer in Sachin. Now here is a man who was feared and respected by the opposition because he let his bat talk not his mouth. Clarke can never emulate the little master with the bat but it looks like he is even behind when it comes to behavior. Believe it or not, this Aussie team full of old people who will start losing very soon. Momentum plays a big part in this sport. The Aussies thumped their arch rivals at home and carried that momentum to RSA where they have always done well. This will stop very soon. It is going to be fun to see the Aussies return to losing ways soon. We can hardly wait.

  • Giles on March 6, 2014, 16:16 GMT

    I think Aus took their desperation a little too far but once again they get away with it because everyone is so used to Aussie teams of the past doing the same thing and having a win at all cost attitude that it slips past the cracks. If SA did the same thing, people would be going on about smith being a disgrace. It's strange how Aus always try bend the rules and make a scene when they're in a tough spot. Say what you want but it just doesn't make them a like-able bunch. The sad thing is that i thought this newer bunch were a bit different from the Aus players of old like ponting, Mcgrath, etc who used to sledge relentlessly and act like school kids but now it seems this team has taken to do doing the same thing.

  • Cameron on March 6, 2014, 14:39 GMT

    orangtan: then why do you assume mine to be a pseudonym? I was merely utilising the names of a few regular Australian contributors here to illustrate my point. Jonesy is a derivation of the surname Jones.

  • Orang on March 6, 2014, 14:14 GMT

    @Vishnu27, not at all, support whoever you want. Jonesy is a name or a nickname, enlighten us.

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