REUTERS - South African batsman AB de Villiers defended team mate Faf du Plessis on Friday after the fielder was caught ball tampering during the second test against Pakistan in Dubai and his side handed a five-run penalty.
"I know Faf very well," his former schoolmate told reporters.
"He is the last man on the field who will try anything like that," De Villiers insisted despite television pictures showing Du Plessis appearing to rub the ball on the zipper of his trouser pocket.
De Villiers said Du Plessis had been designated to look after the condition of the ball throughout the Pakistan innings.
"It is part of his responsibility to shine the ball, in order to get it swing, and look after it. It is not an easy job and I thought he did a very good job of it," De Villiers added.
But the umpires thought differently as South African captain Graeme Smith and Du Plessis were called over for a discussion with umpires Ian Gould and Rod Tucker.
The ball was then replaced from a box carried on to the pitch by fourth umpire Shozab Raza after which Gould signalled a five run-penalty, effectively accusing the top-ranked test side of unnaturally trying to alter the state of the ball.
"I don't even know where the message came from. There were no warnings, no talk of it. I still don't know the facts," said De Villiers.
The International Cricket Council have since confirmed the penalty, opening up the possibility that fines and possible suspension could be handed out.
Neither Smith nor Du Plessis spoke to the media after the match and Cricket South Africa did not even mention the incident in two separate summaries of the day's play sent to the media on Friday.
The incident brought back memories of the 2006 Oval test when Pakistan refused to take to the field against England after being penalised five runs for ball tampering. They ended up forfeiting the test.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)