South African cricketer Vernon Philander checks the ball before delivering it during the final day of the opening Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.

Johannesburg - Dale Steyn believes that the “ball tampering” incident should not cloud South Africa’s win in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, and he is right.

The footage (unaired until Sunday) of Steyn’s teammate Vernon Philander “cleaning” the ball looks quite damning, but how much did he alter the state of the ball?

As it turns out, not enough for Billy Bowden and Richard Kettleborough, the on-field umpires, to want to replace it.

The on-field officials have the right to ask for the ball at anytime during play.

One of them will have the ball in his possession at the end of each over and they also have it with them when a wicket falls.

However, amid Steyn’s devastating spell on Friday afternoon, not once did they appear to express concern over the state of the ball. In fact they went to tea with the ball on Friday, and did nothing.

Hashim Amla – in a move most unusual for a South African captain – kept bowling with that ball until the 98th over of Sri Lanka’s first innings.

Still there was nothing from either umpire.

In fact not until the unaired footage ended up in the hands of match referee Jeff Crowe was their any concern from any of the officials about anything untoward taking place.

The television production company – Ten Sports – have made a big fuss over the fact that they felt the South African team’s management had reportedly “bullied” them into not airing the footage.

There is a question here about what right the TV producers have to run to the match referee about footage that wasn’t aired which may be indicative of some wrongdoing.

How many times has that occurred? And have there been times when unaired footage showing wrongdoing has not been taken to the match officials? Who decides to show the match officials unaired footage?

On what basis is that decision made?

A look at the footage (which was eventually aired two days after the incident, apparently at the request of Sri Lankan officials) does make it appear that Philander was involved in some nefarious activity.

Given that it’s less than a year away from Faf du Plessis’s indiscretion with a zip in Dubai, it was incredibly stupid.

However, again to make the point, the on-field umpires saw nothing wrong with the ball – if they did they would have replaced it. The fact that Philander only received a fine (docked 75 percent of his match fee) and not a ban further clouds this issue.

The International Cricket Council need to step in here and define exactly what constitutes “ball tampering”.

Fielders throwing the ball in from the boundary so that it bounces on side pitches to further rough up one side of the ball is apparently wrong, yet teams do it until warned by the umpires.

There is a school of thought that goes that some form of tampering should be allowed as long as it doesn’t involve unnatural substances (hairgel, sunscreen) although would that make “snot” legitimate?

After all spit is fine, scratching with finger nails isn’t.

“Tampering” or as the players prefer to call it, ball management, has been going on forever.

It only really reached the public’s attention when the Pakistanis started getting the ball to reverse swing – apparently aided by scratching the ball with bottle tops. Until the rest of the cricket world learned how to properly “manage” the ball, reverse swing was virtually deemed illegal.

Last Friday’s controversy in Galle shouldn’t take away from South Africa’s performance.

Saying an asterisk should accompany the result is frankly ridiculous.

Instead it’s time the TV stations decide what they’re there to do which is broadcast the match – all of it – and not run to officials with unaired footage.

The ICC need to clear up exactly what constitutes “ball tampering” because apparently, umpires Bowden and Kettle- borough didn’t think Philander did anything wrong. If they did, the ball would have been replaced and the player banned for the second Test.

The Star