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How the ball-tampering episode unfolded in St Lucia

[ESPNcricinfo] Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal has been officially charged with ball tampering in the ongoing Test against West Indies – a charge he and the Sri Lanka team appear likely to contest when a hearing is held at the end of the Test. Here is the sequence that led to the state of events.

  • Following play on the second evening on Friday, in which Sri Lanka were straining for wickets, on-field umpires Aleem Dar and Ian Gould, and television umpire Richard Kettleborough had concerns over the methods Sri Lanka had used to maintain the ball. As a result, they approached the broadcasters for footage which could support or confirm their suspicion.
  • The next morning, the umpires viewed footage (which has now been aired), of Chandimal reaching into his pocket, seemingly retrieving something from it to put in his mouth, and only a couple of seconds later, applying that saliva to the ball before handing it to bowler Lahiru Kumara.
  • Upon viewing this footage, the umpires laid the charge of ball tampering, about 10 minutes before the teams were due to take the field on day three. Incensed by the charge, and the fact that the ball had been changed by the umpires with five penalty runs added to West Indies’ score, the Sri Lanka team refused to take the field.
  • Over the course of the next two hours, in which Sri Lanka’s team management was seen in animated disussions with match referee Javagal Srinath and had also been in contact with cricket administrators in Colombo, the matter was discussed at length.
  • Among Sri Lanka’s concerns was the timing of the charge. They believed it should have been laid on the second evening itself, rather than having been sprung on the team just before play on the third day. The umpires, however, may have wanted their suspicions to be corroborated by video evidence before further action was taken. As it is, according to the ICC’s playing conditions, in the case of an alleged Level 1 or Level 2 offence on the field, the umpires have up to “18 hours of the close of the day’s play… or prior to the start of the following day’s play” to lodge the report with the match referee.
  • Eventually, Srinath issued an ultimatum: either Sri Lanka take the field before 11:30am (the scheduled start had been 9:30), or forfeit the game. Sri Lanka resumed play just before this period elapsed.
  • That Srinath allowed Sri Lanka such a grace period is likely because all concerned parties were in constant communication – unlike for instance, at The Oval in 2006, when the umpires swiftly awarded the Test to England after little communication with the Pakistan side. In fact here, there was one false start – Sri Lanka had taken the field to resume play before being hauled off it again by the team management. In the time they were on the field, Chandimal was in discussion with at least one umpire.
  • Later on day three, Sri Lanka Cricket issued a release that stated the team strongly denied all charges, with the support of its administrators. Play went on as usual.
  • The next day, the ICC issued a statement stating that Chandimal had pleaded not guilty to the charge. The footage “appeared to show the Sri Lanka captain taking sweets out from his left pocket and putting these in his mouth, before applying the artificial substance to the ball which the umpires viewed as an attempt to change its condition,” the statement said.

A hearing will be held at the end of the Test, with Chandimal standing to lose as many as two suspension points, which could see him miss the third Test.

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