Cricket South Africa (CSA) were forced into a public apology after it emerged that two of the organisation’s high-ranking officials posed with fans wearing masks of Sonny Bill Williams during the second Test against Australia.
News of the masks – produced to try and annoy David Warner – being worn inside the stadium hit the headlines on day one but it only later emerged that two CSA officials were caught in the storm.
Warner’s wife, Candice, was photographed in a compromising position with rugby star Williams in a Sydney toilet cubicle in 2007, and the Aussie star is not popular in South Africa after his high-profile clash with Proteas wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock during the first Test.
Warner was in the field on Saturday (local time) in Port Elizabeth as South Africa progressed from 1-39 to 7-263 at stumps on day two – a lead of 20 runs.
AB de Villiers led the way for the Proteas and is on 74 not out, while Mitch Marsh and Pat Cummins claimed two wickets each for the tourists.
‘Immediate precautionary steps taken’
The officials in the photograph are reportedly Clive Eksteen, CSA’s commercial and marketing boss, and Altaaf Kazi, CSA’s head of communications.
— Triple M Adelaide (@TripleMAdelaide) March 9, 2018
“Cricket South Africa wishes to distance itself from the alleged action of certain officials in associating themselves with fans wearing masks representing the face of Sonny Bill Williams, which conduct is seemingly related to the Warner/De Kock incident, during the opening day of the second Sunfoil Test match at St George’s Park,” a statement read.
While CSA respects the rights of its fans to represent their own points of view, CSA does not associate itself with these actions and urges all Protea supporters from refraining from being involved in distasteful or unwelcome actions that may impact the image of the sport and its supporters.
“CSA has taken immediate precautionary steps against the CSA officials allegedly involved in this incident and will follow the organisation’s normal internal processes in this regard.”
According to Fairfax Media, the Australian camp were aware of the masks going into the first day of the Test, and asked that they be banned.
Security complied – only for Eksteen and Kazi to overrule them after fans complained.
CSA president Chris Nenzani said the organisation sent “sincere apologies to the board of Cricket Australia, its officials, team management, plays and their families.”
Fall-out from the incident continued on Saturday, with South African cricket writer Telford Vice insisting fans who broke the masks “disgrace cricket followers”.
“They disgrace South Africans. They disgrace the human race,” he added in a Times Live column.
Ex-Australia cricketer Jimmy Maher claimed the behaviour was “absolutely ridiculous” and that things were “getting really personal now”.
“It needs to stop,” he told Fox Sports News.
On the field
After bowling Australia out for 243 on day one, South Africa had the chance to take a first-innings lead on Saturday.
Nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada added 12 runs to his overnight score before he chopped on off Cummins (2-55 off 20 overs) for 29.
He was the only batsman dismissed in a slow first session, though, as Dean Elgar (57) and Hashim Amla (56) frustrated the Australians with patient batting.
Amla was given out lbw twice but successfully reviewed both decisions before the tourists finally had their man when Mitchell Starc (1-78 from 26) bowled him with the score on 155, ending an 88-run partnership for the third wicket.
And Elgar then fell just moments later, edging behind off Josh Hazlewood (1-73 off 24) during an over bizarrely interrupted on multiple occasions after umpire Kumar Dharmasena pleaded with the venue’s ever-present brass band to stop playing music.
The band would not be denied and nor would the Australians, as Mitch Marsh (2-26 off nine) produced a quick-fire double salvo with the wickets of Faf du Plessis (nine) and Theunis de Bruyn (one), both lbw.
That reduced the Proteas to 6-183 and gave Steve Smith’s side hope of claiming a first-innings lead.
De Villiers took charge from that point, though, regularly finding the boundary in a quick 44-run stand with de Kock.
Nathan Lyon (1-29 off 16) removed the South Africa wicket-keeper with a stunning delivery but de Villiers and Vernon Philander (14 not out) fought on in the last hour to give the hosts the advantage.
Also on day two, the ICC charged Rabada for making physical contact with Steve Smith after dismissing him in Australia’s first innings.
A ban could see Rabada miss the rest of the series, but he will contest the charge.
South Africa 7-263 (in response to Australia’s 243)
De Villiers 74*, Elgar 57, Amla 56, Mitch Marsh 2-26, Cummins 2-55