Justin Ontong, the Cape Cobras captain, has been found not guilty of ball tampering after an incident in the Cobras' match against Lions in January. Ontong was called to face a disciplinary hearing in relation to a charge of "changing the condition of the ball" but he has now been cleared.
The ball had been sent to Australia for examination by manufacturer Kookaburra. Despite a superficial appearance of the seam being interfered with, Kookaburra director Rob Elliot said the damage "could be a manufacturing anomaly in so far as the stitch has pulled through the leather" and was unable to prove ball tampering with any certainty.
Cricket South Africa disciplinary commissioner Professsor Rian Cloete said: "In view of this report and the lack of any other evidence, I find that there is no conclusive evidence substantiating the allegation of ball tampering as stated in the Match Report."
The accusation arose during a heated episode in the Sunfoil Series match, which Lions won to close the gap at the top of the table. Umpires Brian Jerling and Shaun George decided to change the ball after concluding that its condition had been altered and offered Lions batsman Quinton de Kock the choice of a replacement. Cobras were reportedly unhappy with the substitute ball, as it was significantly older.
De Kock was subsequently involved in an on-field scuffle with Cobras' Alistair Gray and was suspended for one match after pleading guilty to a Level 2 offence. Cape Cobras had always disputed the charge levelled against Ontong.