Australia's David Warner and South Africa's Quinton de Kock have been charged by the ICC for their stairwell confrontation in Durban, with both players having until Wednesday to respond to the charge.
Both players were charged under the catch-all ICC code of conduct clause on bringing "the game into disrepute" following the episode that marred the Kingsmead Test, but Warner faces a more serious level 2 charge while de Kock a less serious level 1 offence. The difference in levels means Warner could be banned for one Test, but the heaviest penalty de Kock faces is a fine.
The matter was debated in a meeting at the hotel being shared by the two teams in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday night, with the Australian and South African team managers Gavin Dovey and Mohammed Moosajee speaking with the match referee Jeff Crowe.
The incident took place as the players left the field for tea on the fourth day. CCTV footage from cameras trained on the staircase leading to the dressing rooms showed Warner being physically restrained by several team-mates as he launched a verbal attack at de Kock. South African captain Faf du Plessis emerged from the hosts' dressing room to try and diffuse the situation. He was accompanied by Kagiso Rabada, who did not get involved. The players went into their own changerooms after a few minutes. The video was first made public by South African media outlet Independent Media.
South Africa's management will meet with de Kock to discuss his options before deciding how to respond to the charge. They strongly maintain that the verbal fracas started while de Kock was batting and was led by Warner making personal affronts to de Kock. South Africa are understood to be disappointed that Warner did not receive a more serious charge; a Level 3 charge would have required an independent arbiter to hear the case.
The on-field umpires - Kumar Dharmasena and S Ravi - are understood to be claiming not to have heard anything that could be considered a breach of the code. South Africa's reaction to this is one of incredulity, and some sources told ESPNcricinfo that the view in the home camp is that the umpires are "intimidated" by Australia. After the Durban Test, du Plessis said he felt the umpires should have stepped in earlier to avoid the situation spilling over onto the stairwell, but he also admitted the chatter had got personal from both sides.
The charges against Warner and de Kock were brought by the on-field umpires. "Australia vice-captain David Warner and South Africa's Quinton de Kock have been reported for breaching the ICC code of conduct following their altercation on the fourth day of the Durban Test which was captured on CCTV," an ICC spokesman said. "The umpires officiating in the Durban Test have reported Warner for a level 2 offence and de Kock for level 1 offence for 'conduct that brings the game into disrepute' following the incident in the stairwell near their dressing rooms. The teams have been given until tomorrow to respond to the charges."
The former Australia batsman Simon Katich, currently commentating in South Africa, said the ICC had the opportunity to draw a line under the sort of aggressive exchanges captured on the CCTV footage by imposing a ban. "The one thing the match referee has got the control to do is if they set a precedent, players will stop behaving like that," Katich said on SEN radio."At the moment it might take a one-Test ban for players to realise they can't behave like that, and then it would put it to bed.
"In the end, the team that gets affected by a player missing out on a Test match is going to be very disappointed with their fellow team-mate, and what will happen is the team-mates will start to police these issues, rather than let them happen over and over again. Let's see what happens with the match referee and whether they're going to be stern enough to stamp this behaviour out."