South Africa are claiming innocence over the ball-tampering penalty they were hit with after the 30th over of Pakistan's second innings on the third day in Dubai. AB de Villiers, speaking to reporters after play, said South Africa "are not a team that scratches the ball" and did not believe any one of his team-mates had done anything wrong.
The incident occurred two overs after tea, following television visuals of Faf du Plessis rubbing the ball allegedly on the zipper of his trouser pocket. The umpires Ian Gould and Rod Tucker called Graeme Smith over for a chat and subsequently changed the ball and awarded a five-run penalty against South Africa, sanctions that are consistent under law 42.3 (playing conditions law 42.1), when the identity of the player who unlawfully changed the condition of the ball has been determined.
"We are not a team that scratches the ball," de Villiers said at the post-match conference. "We play in a fair manner, we want to swing the ball as much as we can, we try and get it to reverse, putting more sweat on one side and things like that, but we don't cheat. It's as simple as that."
Du Plessis was also called to the on-field meeting between Smith and the umpires. JP Duminy said he "heard when the umpires called Graeme and Faf together, that there was some evidence of alteration to the condition of the ball." Duminy said the team did not know "how conclusive the evidence was". He further stated that the team "didn't think there was anything wrong with the ball, and the issue was at the umpires' discretion and we have to accept it."
De Villiers, when asked at the press conference if there was anything he could say about du Plessis' actions, defended his team-mate.
"I know Faf very well. He is the last man on the field who will try anything like that," de Villiers said. "It is part of his responsibility to shine the ball, in order to get it swing, and look after it. It is not an easy job and I thought he did a very good job of it."
When the penalty runs were awarded, the South African team's body language did not change at all and they continued the match with the replacement ball without any protest. De Villiers said there was uncertainty as to what they were being penalised for: "I don't even know where the message came from. There were no warnings, no talk of it. I still don't know the facts."
This is the first time South Africa have been accused of ball-tampering, although they have been at the receiving end of incidents like the 1994 "dirt-in-the-pocket affair" involving Mike Atherton and the allegations against Sachin Tendulkar in 2001. In 2010, television visuals showed Stuart Broad and James Anderson allegedly rubbing the ball on the ground with their spikes in Cape Town, but no charges were laid.