Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis has been found guilty of ball-tampering and fined his entire match fee from the Hobart Test, but will be free to play in Adelaide this week.
The charge, laid by ICC chief executive David Richardson, related to clause 2.2.9 of the ICC's Code of Conduct, which deals with "changing the condition of the ball" in breach of the Laws of Cricket. The Laws of Cricket, in turn, allow that players may "polish the ball provided that no artificial substance is used and that such polishing wastes no time".
In laying the charge, the ICC had said that "TV footage appeared to show du Plessis applying saliva and residue from a mint or sweet, an artificial substance, to the ball in an attempt to change its condition" during the Hobart Test. Du Plessis pleaded not guilty to the charge and faced a lengthy hearing before ICC match referee Andy Pycroft in Adelaide on Tuesday.
On Tuesday evening, the ICC said in a statement: "The decision was based on the evidence given from the umpires, who confirmed that had they seen the incident they would have taken action immediately, and from Mr Stephenson [MCC head of cricket John Stephenson], who confirmed the view of MCC that the television footage showed an artificial substance being transferred to the ball."
In addition to the fine, three demerit points have been added to the disciplinary record of du Plessis for what was deemed a first offence. If du Plessis reaches four or more demerit points within a two-year period, they will be converted into suspension points and he would face a ban.
Cricket South Africa has confirmed that du Plessis, who had been represented by CSA's legal counsel via teleconference, would appeal the verdict. He has 48 hours from the time of receipt of the written decision to lodge his objections.
An appeal would require the matter to be heard from the beginning by a judicial commissioner, who can then increase, decrease or amend the sanction in accordance with the punishments for the particular breach. The maximum penalty for a level 2 breach is a 100% match fee fine and two suspension points, which equates to being banned for one Test. In essence, du Plessis would therefore be risking a ban by attempting to clear his name.
Du Plessis' stoicism in his own innocence has echoed around the South African squad all week. On Tuesday, coach Russell Domingo confirmed, prior to the hearing, that the entire touring party was "standing by our captain." The squad was at the Adelaide Oval for the full duration of du Plessis' hearing, conducting their training session. Du Plessis was unable to play any part in the practice as his time with the match referee lasted a full three hours.
Australia's players were also training at Adelaide Oval as the hearing took place. They arrived around 5pm and trained under lights, and as du Plessis left his hearing he walked past several of the Australians, accompanied by CSA's security officer and team manager. Du Plessis had a coffee in hand and a stony expression on his face, revealing little, but 90 minutes later the guilty was verdict was made public.