Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s captain, could be in trouble with the match referee after appearing to make physical contact with Jos Buttler on the fourth afternoon in Johannesburg.
With du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen batting together for more than 30 overs on a brutally hot day, England appeared to be growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of movement they were generating from the ball and, it seemed, du Plessis’ habit of picking the ball up after playing a stroke and returning it to the fielders.
At one stage, du Plessis was hit on the pads by a throw from Sam Curran, who was fielding at mid-on. That appeared to lead to an exchange of words between du Plessis and several of the fielding side. As the players converged, du Plessis appeared to deliberately walk into Buttler before continuing his verbal altercation with Stuart Broad.
While the contact was far from violent, the ICC’s code of conduct states that “any form of inappropriate physical contact is prohibited in cricket. Without limitation, players will breach this regulation if they deliberately, recklessly and/or negligently walk or run into or shoulder another player or umpire.”
Such an incident is considered either a Level 1 or Level 2 offence and carries a maximum penalty of four demerit points. That would also bring an automatic suspension.
It may not help du Plessis’ case that he is an experienced player and his side’s captain. As such, the match referee may expect him to set an example.
Moments after the incident, du Plessis’ miserable series was ended when a delivery from Ben Stokes kept horribly low and ricocheted into the stumps of a bottom edge. It meant du Plessis had failed to reach 40 in the entire series and took his side close to a 3-1 home defeat. Speculation is rife that this will be du Plessis’ final Test as captain and possibly his final Test as a player.
Buttler attracted the ire of the South Africa players for abusing Vernon Philander earlier in the series. Buttler was fined 15% of his match fee and received one demerit point for the episode. Philander, Stokes and Kagiso Rabada have also been punished for disciplinary issues during the Tests.