Gros-Islet (Saint Lucia) (AFP) – An apparent ball-tampering controversy threatened play on the third day of the second Test between the West Indies and Sri Lanka on Saturday with only an hour’s play possible on a bright, sunny morning after the Sri Lankans initially refused to take the field.
Following concerns raised by umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould about the condition of the ball nearing the end of the second day, the Sri Lankans were advised before the start of play on Saturday that they could not continue with the existing ball.
This resulted in Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal declining to lead his team onto the field with the West Indies set to continue their innings at 118 for two in reply to Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 253.
Animated discussions then ensued involving match referee Javagal Srinath and the Sri Lankan pair of coach Chandika Hathurusingha and team manager Asanka Gurusinha and it appeared for some time that the day’s play at least and possibly the rest of the match might be in doubt.
However it was after these deliberations that the Sri Lankans agreed to the change of ball and to continue playing although it is understood that they will be contesting the ball-tampering charge.
Five penalty runs were added to the West Indies total.
After initially appearing to be prepared to resume the match, the Sri Lankan cricketers then hesitated even as they were making their way out to the middle.
Further discussions ensued which brought Srinath onto the field while the West Indies contingent, headed by team manager Rawl Lewis, coach Stuart Law and captain Jason Holder, appeared bemused by the entire situation and sought clarification from the match referee.
Unconfirmed reports coming out from these deliberations suggest that the Sri Lankans were reluctant to continue the match under the cloud of suspicion of ball-tampering.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) confimed that a five-run penalty had been added to the West Indies total.
“The ICC can confirm the match officials in the second Test between West Indies and Sri Lanka changed the ball and awarded 5 penalty runs to West Indies,” the ruling body tweeted.
“If there are any, Code of Conduct charges will follow as per usual at close of play.”
When play eventually resumed, the West Indies progressed from their overnight position without too many alarms until Suranga Lakmal produced an excellent delivery to have Shai Hope caught by Dhananjaya de Silva at slip for 19.
Opening batsman Devon Smith progressed to 60 at lunch in partnership with Roston Chase with the home side at 154 for three.
There is a precedent for a team refusing to take the field after a brush with the umpires.
The first and only time a match has been forfeited in the history of Test cricket was in 2006, after Pakistan were penalised five runs for ball tampering by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove in the fourth Test against England at The Oval.
The Pakistanis did not return to the field after tea on the fourth day and the umpires deemed this to mean they had forfeited the match, even though Pakistan later said they were willing to play.
It was in March that Australia were caught tampering with the ball illegally on the third day of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
Following their admissions of guilt and an investigation, Steve Smith and David Warner were stripped of the captaincy and vice-captaincy respectively and banned from playing international cricket for 12 months. Opening batsman Cameron Bancroft, the player caught on camera applying sandpaper to the ball, was banned for nine months.