Ben Stokes could be banned for launching a foul-mouthed tirade at a supporter who abused him for being ginger and compared him to Ed Sheeran.
Stokes, who last night apologised for his outburst, was picked up by television cameras and microphones shouting at a South Africa supporter: “Come and say that to me outside the ground you f—— four-eyed c—”.
It is understood the fan ran down from the top of the stand to swear at Stokes for being ginger. Eyewitnesses said he compared Stokes to ginger-haired pop singer Sheeran, who is a big cricket fan and publicly backed Stokes to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. England have asked for increased security after a number of players and support staff were abused by the crowd.
Stokes gestured to the fan and shouted at him as he walked up the tunnel after being dismissed for two having played a poor shot and edged to slip. He was on Friday night still waiting to hear if he would be punished by the match referee.
Stokes apologised for his behaviour via a statement released by the England and Wales Cricket Board. He said: “I wish to apologise for my language after my dismissal. I should not have reacted in that way. As I was leaving the playing area, I was subjected to repeated abuse from the crowd. I admit that my reaction was unprofessional, and I sincerely apologise for the language I used, especially to the many young fans watching the live telecast around the world.”
His case is in the hands of match referee Andy Pycroft, who last week gave Kagiso Rabada a demerit point that suspended him from this Test match for celebrating too close to Joe Root after bowling him in the first innings of the Port Elizabeth Test.
England have worked hard on behaviour over the past two years with Root and Ashley Giles, the managing director, introducing a new code of conduct and midnight curfew.
Giles coincidentally arrived in South Africa on Friday. In a statement he said: “It is disappointing that a member of the public has gone out of their way to abuse Ben as he was leaving the field. Ben is fully aware that he should not have reacted in the way that he did and apologises for his actions.
“In addition to this incident, members of our support staff were subjected to personal abuse during and after the day’s play. We have requested to the venue to ensure that security and stewarding are enhanced for the remainder of the match so that players’ and staff members can go about their duties without provocation.”
Stokes could face a maximum of a level-three charge for “threat of assault on another player, support personnel, umpire or any other person including a spectator” if the match referee deems his comment “come and say that to me outside” as a threat of violence. That would carry either a one Test-match suspension or ban for two white-ball games, depending on which format the player is due to play next.
Stokes is not in the ODI squad so if he is found guilty of a level-three offence he would be banned for the first two Twenty20 internationals against South Africa.
It is more likely that Stokes will be charged with a level-one offence of using an audible obscenity and will be fined and a given one demerit point.
Stokes has a clean disciplinary record. He reached three disciplinary points in August 2017 when he was picked up by stump microphones swearing in a Test at Headingley. Clocking up four points triggers a one-Test suspension but points only remain on a player’s record for two years so Stokes is back on zero.
England will decide this weekend whether Jofra Archer stays in South Africa or goes home for treatment on his right elbow after he was ruled out of the final Test on the morning of the match.
Archer pulled up injured in the warm-up and looked distraught when he was told by the medical team he would not be fit to play at the Wanderers.
Archer is due to go home after this Test for a week’s rest before returning to South Africa for the Twenty20 series. England may now decide he should stay in South Africa to be monitored by the medical staff for an injury that is refusing to heal and has prevented him playing since the first Test.