Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, 5th day July 20, 2014

SLC ensure tampering footage aired


Sri Lanka Cricket was able to ensure that the television footage of Vernon Philander's ball-tampering was aired 48 hours after the incident took place. In the interim period, it has been established that the Ten Sports producers were under pressure by the South African team not to have the footage shown in their broadcast. CSA have declined to comment on the incident.

In the TV footage that finally appeared during the closing stages of the Galle Test, Philander was seen scratching the ball with his fingers and thumb in the afternoon session of the third day. Philander dug his nails into the rough side of the ball at least twice and was also seen covering the ball with one hand while picking at it with the other. At the time of the incident, the pictures were only viewed by the Ten Sports production team and match officials.

Ten Sports showed the pictures on day five at the end of the 69th over, shortly after the second session drinks break - within 20 minutes of an SLC official visiting the production team at the ground and making it clear they wanted the pictures broadcast. It followed almost two days of pressure by CSA and the South Africa team management on the TV producers to not air the footage as it could "create a negative image" of their team.

When the television cameras had picked up images of Philander picking on the ball, they did not air the footage but alerted the ICC match referee Jeff Crowe, who viewed the footage at tea time. No message was sent to the on-field officials until the incident was reviewed after the day's play. Philander was then charged, pleaded guilty and was fined but the pictures were not shown at all. A source in the know of the incident said, "CSA big-wigs made it clear they would not be happy if we showed the incident."

Not broadcasting the pictures at the time of the incident also prevented the third umpire from viewing the footage, and precluded the possibility the third umpire would interrupt play as soon as evidence of ball-tampering emerged. As it transpired, South Africa used the ball Philander had tampered with till late in the evening session. Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said after the match that the ball had reverse-swung more on the third evening, than at a comparable stage of the innings on day five.

Crowe was the only match official aware of the tampering before the close of play, but he is not allowed to present the footage he viewed to the umpires, while play is ongoing. All five match officials viewed the footage after stumps on day three, at which point the umpires laid the charge against Philander.

SLC may have acted sooner, but were unaware of the pressure being placed by CSA until Sunday. When officials from the home side heard of the directive sent out to the producers, they insisted that Ten Sports show the footage and the producers had no choice but to relent. Ten Sports are broadcasting this series under SLC's purview, as part of the $60 million deal the broadcast company had signed with the board, for coverage up to 2020.

This is not the first skirmish between CSA and Ten Sports, which owns rights to broadcast South African cricket outside of South Africa on a basis of a R1.5 billion (US$150 million) contract. Ten Sports also held the rights for Pakistan cricket during South Africa's tour of the UAE last October-November when Faf du Plessis was caught on camera rubbing the ball near the zipper on his trouser pocket. The television umpire alerted the on-field officials who awarded five penalty runs to Pakistan and changed the ball. Du Plessis was later fined 50% of his match fee after pleading guilty to ball tampering.

At the time, CSA responded furiously at Ten Sports' coverage, one insider saying, "They (CSA) told us they would take away our rights and threatened to deny us player interviews in the future," an insider said.

Sri Lanka have not made any other big noises about the ball-tampering incident except to say they would like to see the umpires take stronger action. "It's unfortunate when someone tampers with the ball. If they tamper with the ball, they get the better of it. I think the umpires need to make sure it doesn't happen again," Mathews said.

Asked if he felt his side was cheated, Mathews was careful. "It's not within the laws. You can't tamper with the ball. It's the umpires' decision and they need to make sure it doesn't happen again." He also noted there was more reverse swing on the third afternoon than there was on the final day.

South Africa have tried to play down the incident. Dale Steyn's first answer to whether the ball-tampering fine blighted the victory was, "I don't really think about that," and he followed it up with, "I think tomorrow morning in the papers it will say that we won this game regardless, so I don't know what to say about that," he said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent. Andrew Fidel Fernando is the Sri Lanka correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nick on July 23, 2014, 4:03 GMT

    Thanks @SripriyaReddy. Yes, we know it was aired at the end of the 69th over on day 5, but when on day 3 did Philander tamper with the ball? As well as bowling early in SL innings, Philander bowled overs 46, 48, 50 and 52, and again after tea with Steyn, Philander bowled overs 67, 69 and 71. This was the time when Steyn skittled Thirimanne 71.1, Chandimal 73.4 and Dilruwan 75.3 with his reverse swing. It is unlikely that Philander had much access to the ball when fielding, so that leaves his 4-over spell 46-52 before tea or during his 3-over post-tea spell 67-71. That the match referee, who was shown the ball-tampering by Ten Sports during the match, could not take action until after the close of play, is something that must change. With the ball reversing it is not surprising that SA did not take the new ball till 97.2 over.

  • Cricinfouser on July 22, 2014, 20:17 GMT

    @nickexplore, Ten Cricket aired the ball tampering footage exactly after the end of the 69th over, the footage aired for a brief 10 secs of so.

  • Hari on July 22, 2014, 11:04 GMT

    Very poor from SA Team and Board. Good to see how Srilankans had handled the situation. Aren't there any regulations for broadcasters to immediately report such matters to match officials? If this was reported/shown on time, it could have resulted in change of ball, five run penalty and potentially a different result in the test.

    There were some comments earlier on comparing the spirit which this test was played compared to the "other" match between two teams incapable of playing in right spirit. All I can say is, if you need to put some one down to show that you are good, think again.

  • Nick on July 22, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    ESPN Cicinfo or anyone, please? When exactly was the Ten Sports footage taken of Philander tampering with the ball? In which over? This is the missing piece of the puzzle.

    We know that Philander opened up with Steyn after tea for the 67th over and bowled 3 overs. Steyn bowled 5, with the figures 5-3-8-3, accounting for Thirimanne 71.2, Chandimal 73.4 and Dilruwan 75.3. Is it during his 3 overs post-tea when Philander is seen scratching the ball?

    That SA bowled 97.2 overs with the first ball and did not opt for the second new ball after 80 is extraordinary in Test cricket and of course adds further suspicion as to the state of the ball and Philander's actions.

  • Charash on July 22, 2014, 3:56 GMT

    Crowe should have pointed out this issue to the on-field umpires as soon as tampering was found out from visuals and the ball should have been changed for the first instance. Rest comes later, the enquiry and the fines. Should go systematically to protect the game in the right spirit. Had the ball been changed as soon as tampering was found out from visuals, SA might not have gained unnecessary advantage (more reverse swing) if any..

  • ESPN on July 21, 2014, 16:42 GMT

    I agree with most comments here. in their attempt to 'save face' CSA has brought itself further disrepute. They have a good team, but such tactics will always be remembered for longer than the end result

  • Keiran on July 21, 2014, 9:43 GMT

    I am South African and a fan of South African cricket.

    But - the ICC need to be harder on these kinds of incidents. I think any time a player is found guilty of an offense like this the team should forfeit the test match.

    The problem is thousands of junior and club cricketers will be digging their nails into the ball this week after seeing what Vernon was doing.

    The argument that it doesnt have an impact doesnt wash with me. If it didnt have any impact noone would do it. Reverse swing is exciting and when a bowler gets it going its great to watch and I would hate to see it disappear from cricket because the ball is over protected but I would rather let the players bounce it around a little more than is currently acceptable then have guys scratching away at it.

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2014, 9:02 GMT

    Ball tampering is not the only issue to lost the test match for Sri Lanka. South Africa scored well in first innings and the injury of Eranga lost them a bowler. If South Africa all out for 275. It would have been a different story.

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    To be honest his efforts to scratch the ball to make it swing more is not going to change the condition of the ball thus the umpires could not pick it up after frequently checking it. It is still wrong of him to have done it. There was an attempt made. Players should just let the natural causes take place and do everything in accordance with the rules of the game. Bouncing it in from the boundary is legal and that will cause more damage to the ball than a finger nail.

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2014, 8:23 GMT

    "Ball Tampering": Scratching at the ball. Ha, what a joke. All players "tamper" with the ball when they shine one side, dry another side, apply spit and/or sweat to the ball. Picking at the ball with your fingers should be legal. 75% match fees, for using your tools to perform your job. A farce. This is why Vern thought it was easy to admit guilt. He was guilty, and will probably continue doing so. Its the bowler's right to get the most out of the ball.

    The CSA behaviour is a completely different story, but not unlike most Big Board Behaviour, strong-arming others to show a favourable image; Disgusting. They should be fined 75% of their "match fees" for that despicable and intolerable behaviour.