CAPE TOWN – Australian paceman Pat Cummins giggled nervously when he was questioned about standing on the ball during day one of the third Test against the Proteas at Newlands on Thursday.
Television footage showed Cummins initially stopping the rolling ball with his foot before tea, and then proceeding to stand on it with his right boot for a few seconds.
South Africa went into the tea break on a commanding 185/2 after 55 overs, with Dean Elgar unbeaten on 91 and AB de Villiers on 46.
But after Elgar reached his 11th Test hundred and De Villiers his 44th half-century, things went pear-shaped for the Proteas after tea.
De Villiers played a loose shot in driving outside off against Cummins, and the ball looped to David Warner at mid-off to dismiss the right-hander for 64, and sparked a dramatic collapse as the South Africans lost six wickets for 37 runs.
The Australians managed to generate prodigious reverse-swing in the process, and the Proteas ended the day on 266/8 off 87 overs.
Was the sudden Proteas batting jitters partly due to the ball being damaged by Cummins’ act of standing on the ball?
The 24-year-old fast bowler, who returned figures of 4/64 in 21 overs, didn’t seem to think so.
When asked what happened, Cummins replied, giggling: “What do you want me to say! It’s a mistake yeah…”
He said that on-field umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both from England, did not speak to him about the incident.
“No, of course not. I looked straight back at him and he just started to giggle because um… it was obviously very unintentional.
“Yes (they did check the ball), but obviously there were no issues, so he passed it on.”
Cummins admitted that he felt “pretty ordinary” in his first 10 overs.
“Just felt like I wasn’t… probably hitting my length. But the ball starting swinging a little bit and the two batsmen batting really well. We spoke about just needing that opportunity where if we got one, we could get two or three pretty quickly,” he said.
“Fortunately, I bowled a nice half-volley and AB hit it to mid-off, and for me, it just felt like I had really good rhythm down that end. The ball was swinging pretty consistently, and I was happy.”
But “Footgate” is the latest in a number of controversial incidents that have marred the series so far, and it remains to be seen whether the ICC will take a closer look at the TV footage of the Cummins episode.
The Australians are known for the relentless chirping on the field, and it was carried off it in Durban with the staircase matter between David Warner and Quinton de Kock, and then Kagiso Rabada got involved with Steve Smith and Warner.
Mitchell Marsh was also handed one demerit point for swearing at Rabada in Port Elizabeth, while Rabada won his appeal against a two-Test suspension in the ‘Shouldergate’ incident that has allowed him to play at Newlands.
Elgar said after play on Thursday that the chatter from the Australians during the day was “stock standard, and some of it was quite humorous”.