When Dale Steyn was asked the same sort of questions at the close of play press conference on Sunday, after his South Africa side defeated Sri Lanka, he simply said that the papers will show that they won regardless.
For the cynical, though, it would be easy to dismiss the grand 153-run win in Galle as something which is now stained because of the incident involving Vernon Philander on day three. Proteas bowler Philander was fined 75 percent of his match fee, as per Wisden India, after he was seen scratching the ball on TV footage, which was not aired until late on day five.
Anyone who saw the footage would be hard pressed to try and say that Philander didn’t know what he was doing. When coach Russell Domingo was ushered to the press conference on day four, he was adamant it’s not something the team does deliberately. He said that he doesn’t think South Africa are getting a reputation.
We try to play the game in the right spirit. It’s not something we set out to do. I’m sure that other sides are better at doing it than we are. Maybe it’s something we should cut it out completely. But at the same time, I haven’t seen the footage so it’s difficult to comment on. The umpires say the condition of the ball wasn’t changed at all, and that says it all.
The "it" he speaks of, is changing the condition of the ball, legally or otherwise. The otherwise is where the problem comes in and the lines become blurred.
Throwing the ball onto the pitch deliberately is also in contravention of the law and should carry the same fine. Yet nobody is ever punished for it. Teams have the ball changed, get a warning by the umpire and things move on. Does that mean a little bit of tampering is allowed, despite it being written that it is not allowed?
South Africa, though, now do have a reputation. It is the second time in nine months that they have been caught in this kind of controversy. Faf du Plessis was fined for it against Pakistan and, although Philander was involved too, he escaped punishment, again as per Wisden India.
For some, this will leave a bitter taste, but to suggest that this now taints the entire win is somewhat convoluted. The win came through more than just a fiery Dale Steyn spell. The South African batsmen scored runs, Hashim Amla made a pragmatic declaration by South African standards and Quinton de Kock took more catches than any other keeper in their first Test.
That South Africa were silly enough to get caught again in a short space of time is concerning. Yet, the big sticking point is that the match officials in this particular instance did not see anything wrong with the state of the ball. It was never changed and it was only because of TV footage that a charge was laid in the first place. That does not make it right, but it does offer some insight into how easy it is to get away with.
The overall result might not be tainted, but South Africa need to be more careful in dealing with these situations and, of course, in managing the ball.
Quotes obtained first hand.