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LAHORE: Pakistan’s humbling six-wicket loss to South Africa in the first Test in Centurion has left coach Mickey Arthur firmly in the spotlight.

Arthur received an official warning and one demerit point from the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Friday for breaching the code of conduct during the third day’s play.

The warning came barely 24 hours after it was reported that the manager had lashed out at some senior players including captain Sarfraz Ahmed at the end of the second day’s play which left Pakistan staring at defeat. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had earlier on Friday denied the report.

“Arthur was found to have violated Article 2.8 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to ‘showing dissent at an umpire’s decision during an international match’,” said an ICC press release.

“The incident happened in the ninth over of South Africa’s second innings when Arthur, after TV umpire Joel Wilson had decided in favour of Dean Elgar, entered the TV umpire’s room and showed dissent at Mr. Wilson’s decision by first questioning him and then storming out of the room.

“After the match, the Pakistan coach admitted the offence and accepted the sanction proposed by match referee David Boon. As such, there was no need for a formal hearing. The charge was laid by third umpire Joel Wilson.”

The Level 1 breach carries a minimum penalty of an official reprimand, a maximum penalty of 50 per cent of a player’s match fee, and one or two demerit points.

The incident came at a crucial stage of South Africa’s successful chase of a target of 149 when the hosts were 16 for one and both Elgar and Hashim Amla were struggling against Pakistan’s new-ball bowlers.

Elgar, on four, edged new bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi low to first slip where Azhar Ali appeared to take a diving catch.

On-field umpires Bruce Oxenford and Sundaram Ravi conferred before referring to Wilson with a ‘soft’ signal of out, indicating they thought it was a clean catch.

After looking at several replays, including super-slow close-ups, Wilson ruled the ball had bounced and Elgar was reprieved. He went on to make 50 and shared a partnership of 119 with Amla which virtually ensured South Africa’s win.

Arthur’s irritated reaction could be in part due to media reports coming from Centurion regarding a spat with his players.

It was reported that Arthur came down hard on Pakistani batsmen for their dismal showing during the course of the match.

Sarfraz, who got a pair in both the innings, along with Azhar Ali, out for a duck in the second innings, and Asad Shafiq, who scored just 13 runs in the whole Test, were reported as Arthur’s main targets.

The PCB, however, called the reports “grossly exaggerated”.

“The Pakistan team management led by Manager Talat Ali strongly refutes the baseless allegations levelled against Head Coach Mickey Arthur on his supposed ‘angry behaviour’ at the end of Day Two of the ongoing Test match against South Africa in Centurion,” it said in a press release.

“As per the norm, Mickey held a debriefing meeting at the end of the day’s play which was held in a cordial atmosphere with inputs from team members and management as is the usual practice.

“Any speculation about coach’s angry behaviour towards the players is grossly exaggerated. The head coach, team management, captain and all team members are totally united with a singular aim of producing positive results.

“The team manager and rest of the management hopes that media would refrain from speculating on the matter.”

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2018