South Africa captain Faf du Plessis has protested his innocence and claimed he had been made a scapegoat after the International Cricket Council fined him for ball tampering during the Second Test with Australia.

After television replays appeared to show him licking his fingers to shine a ball whilst eating a mint, an ICC hearing found du Plessis guilty of breaching its code of conduct, fining him 100 per-cent of his match fee and adding three points to his disciplinary record.  The sugar from sweets is said to help maintain the shine on the ball for longer, allowing pace bowlers a prolonged advantage over opposing batsmen.  In a statement the ICC confirmed du Plessis had been punished for transferring an ‘artificial substance’ on to the ball.

It is the second time du Plessis has been punished for ball tampering having been fined in 2013 for an incident during a test match with Pakistan. But the man deputising for regular skipper A. B. de Villiers denied any wrongdoing and suggested he was being singled out by international cricket’s governing body.

“It’s not like I was trying to cheat,” said du Plessis. “Ninety per-cent of the time cricketers have sugary saliva.  It is a grey area in the laws of cricket..The ICC has taken a stance probably to use me as a scapegoat.”

South Africa won the match in Hobart by an innings and 80 runs in a dominant display to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the test series. In doing so they became the first side to claim three successive tour victories over Australia, an achievement du Plessis believes has been overshadowed by the allegations against him.

“The headlines should be about the way we played as a team. We have come to Australia and created history and that deserves more headlines than anything else”.

Despite his protestations du Plessis did not immediately contest the charge, focusing instead on trying to claim a series whitewash, but has since confirmed he intends to appeal the decision.  And before the Third Test between the two sides Australia captain Steve Smith gave further weight to his counterpart’s defence, saying, “We along with every other team in the world shine the ball the same way.”

Cricket South Africa called for “integrity and consistent application of the rules.”  Du Plessis further remarked, “All you can ask is that everyone gets treated the same”.

– Alistair Sergent, Correspondent (Sport)