England were on Friday night anxiously waiting to hear whether Ben Stokes was facing disciplinary action that could include a suspension after being caught up in a foul-mouthed exchange with an abusive spectator here.
A supporter ran towards the players area to shout at Stokes, apparently comparing him to singer Ed Sheeran, before he headed up the famous players tunnel after he had been dismissed for two in England’s 192 for four on a truncated first day of the final Test.
But Stokes risked the wrath of the International Cricket Council when he reacted angrily and was picked up by television microphones apparently saying ‘come and say that to me outside you f****** four-eyed c***.’
Ben Stokes has been caught on camera calling a cricket a ‘f***ing four-eyed c***’ on Friday
Stokes appeared to be angered by comments by the fan made off camera after he was out
Stokes walks up the steps towards the dressing room at the Wanderers Stadium
It seems certain Stokes will be punished for that, with Sky being forced to apologise to their viewers, as England waited to hear how serious the offence was deemed by match referee Andy Pycroft.
Pycroft has already dished out level one action in this series to Jos Buttler for calling Vernon Philander a ‘f****** k*******’ in Cape Town and Kagiso Rababa in Port Elizabeth for over-zealously celebrating the wicket of Joe Root.
It is likely he will deem this on the same level but it is possible Pycroft might feel Stokes actions worthy of a level three ICC offence that would carry the threat of a suspension for one Test or two one-day internationals.
Level three in the code of conduct centres on the threat of assault on another player, support personnel, an official or any other person (including a spectator) in an international match. And by asking the spectator outside Stokes did seem to be picking a fight.
Stokes edged a ball from Anrich Nortje to Rassie van der Dussen at slip for just two
The England all-rounder walks off after being dismissed for just two by South Africa on Friday
The incident overshadowed an eventful opening to a Test England need only to draw to win this series. Firstly Jofra Archer was left in tears after being ruled out with a recurrence of his elbow injury and then Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley made England’s first century opening partnership for more than three years.
But South Africa fought back to take four wickets, with Root and Ollie Pope then steadying England after the flashpoint of Stokes dismissal.
England refused to comment on the incident until they had heard from Pycroft.
Crawley’s 66 was his first Test half century and he said: ‘I’ve definitely got a lot more confidence in myself now. I wouldn’t quite say I’m settled yet and I’ve got more to prove but I feel like I’m improving quite a lot in each game.’
Stokes chats with fans and signs autographs stood near where the altercation took place