The wild and whacky soap opera that is the Australian Cricket Tour of South Africa has taken another turn with ball tampering accusations being leveled at Australian Vice-Captain David Warner. Intent on turning up the pressure on Warner, who sits one demerit point away from suspension after an unsavoury incident during the first Test, it has been reported that several South African players made complaints to the umpires over the strapping on Warner’s hand in Port Elizabeth.
In a series that has become an increasingly fraught contest, it was another moment in which the peripheral has overshadowed the on-field deeds. Australia’s dominant First Test victory missed its place in the headlines with them hijacked by the leaked video footage of Warner’s run-in with Quinton de Kock. In Port Elizabeth, we’ve seen the feats of Kagiso Rabada and AB de Villiers lose the fight for public attention to stories of a more provocative nature.
After Rabada tore the heart out of the Australian innings on Day One, instead of stories celebrating his achievement we were instead left to ponder the fiery quicks possible suspension because of his penchant for delivering fearsome send-offs to those he has dismissed. After Day Two, rather than revel in the spectacular innings of AB de Villiers, we were bombarded with images of South African officials posing for photos with fans bearing objectionable masks designed to taunt Warner and a ridiculously over the top inquiry into the bandaging on the man’s hand.
If this isn’t enough we are also forced to bear witness to the incessant conflict between both sides to claim the high moral ground as they both push the undefined “line” of whats wrong and right to its absolute breaking point. The first test blow-up between Warner and de Kock, is an interesting illustration of this. Only coming to light when CCTV footage was leaked after days of both teams claiming that neither team had stepped over said “line”, it prompted spirited defences from both camps. The Australians claimed their man was incensed by an outrageous slur from de Kock, while in response the Proteas protested he had only done so after a tortuous experience comparable to a long-term stay in Guantanamo Bay.
Like most teams that play against the Australians, the South Africans have been at pains to claim victimhood whilst simultaneously diving deep into the mud to wrestle their opponent. It can be an effective strategy when combined with a host broadcaster that refuses to abide by ICC regulations regarding stump mikes and CCTV footage of off-field blow ups mysteriously being leaked to media outlets. So effective that some media outlets are prepared to delve deeper into spurious claims of ball tampering and to countenance a defence of ‘accidental’ contact when a player collides with another during the delivery of a furious spray upon taking his wicket.
It was a strategy that we wrote about during the Ashes (you can read our take at the time here), whereby the English were more than happy to boast of their success at using sledging to get into the head of Steve Smith, while complaining about being subjected to the same tactics themselves. In the end, these scenes of grown men crying ‘but they did it first’ or ‘they did it worse’ are not much more than the new battleground of ‘mental disintegration’. When viewed through this prism, it is easy to see these ball tampering complaints for what they actually are. Rather than an honest reporting of an offence in progress, they are nothing more than an attempt to stymie the effectiveness of an opponent.
With South Africa seemingly poised to level the series at 1-1 with two Tests to play, we shouldn’t expect this circus show to finish anytime soon. One positive to come from the newfound and disproportionate interest in Warner’s bandaging was the chance it offered him to send a handwritten message to his wife on them. It was a nice touch, given the fact that she had been unwittingly dragged into South Africa’s attempts to counteract her husbands impact on the series. Despite the likely continuation of the sideshow, let’s hope we hear more about the cricket and that for ours, and Candice Warner’s sake, that this is the last we hear about her.
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