Ben Stokes has been fined 15% of his match fee after accepting an ICC charge for swearing at a spectator during day one of the fourth Test between England and South Africa in Johannesburg.
Stokes was found to have breached Article 2.3 of the ICC's code of conduct, which relates to the “use of an audible obscenity during an International Match”.
The 28-year old was verbally abused by a spectator as he was making his way off the field having been dismissed for two in the first innings. In retaliation to something that was said, the all-rounder was heard responding: “Come say that to me outside the ground, you f*****g four-eyed c**t!”
On Saturday morning, Stokes met with match referee Andy Pycroft and accepted his level one charge and one demerit point. By admitting to the offence and accepting the sanction, there was no need for a formal hearing.
As per the ICC regulations, a total of four demerit points in a 24 months incurs an automatic ban. This is Stokes’ solitary point in this period.
Stokes released a statement on Twitter later in the evening apologising for the incident. He confirmed he was the subject of abuse from the crowd but ceded his reaction was “unprofessional, and I sincerely apologise for the language I used, especially to to the many young fans watching the live telecast around the world”.
The managing director of England men's cricket, Ashley Giles, added: “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."
Giles also revealed members of the support staff had been "subjected to personal abuse" at the end of day one. As such, Giles revealed the ground was asked to improve security: "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.”
However, Reuben Niekerk, the venue operations manager at Imperial Wanderers, revealed on Saturday that he had not been contacted by the England team over the matter.
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“The stadium is not aware of this request and we also feel that the currently deployed security numbers is sufficient. Throwing additional numbers to a problem is not the solution.
"As initially done prior to the start of this Test, we have again reiterated to the field of play security (and other sensitive areas) to be more proactive in identifying spectators comments when players are in and around their respective areas (that's fielding on the boundary close to them or entering and exiting the field).
"In addition to this, the England Team Security consisting of two guys have agreed to ensure that at any given time at least one of them will be down at the dug-out/tunnel entrance from field to closely monitor any comments from the spectators.”
Stokes is the second England player to incur an ICC reprimand on this tour. During the second Test in Cape Town, wicketkeeper Jos Buttler also accepted a level one charge when he was picked up on the stump microphones swearing at Vernon Philander.
It is South Africa, though, who have been hit hardest by ICC sanctions. Kagiso Rabada is not playing this Test because of a one-match ban he picked up for an over-the-top celebration upon dismissing Joe Root. As well as a 15% fine, the demerit point he picked up took his tally over a two-year period to four to result in an automatic suspension.