Ben Stokes escapes ban over ‘audible obscenity’ after row with supporter

Chris Stocks in Johannesburg
Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ben Stokes has escaped a ban for swearing at a supporter on the opening day of the fourth Test against South Africa, after accepting a level one charge for an “audible obscenity”.

The England vice-captain reacted to provocation – including a derogatory reference to the singer Ed Sheeran – from a middle-aged supporter wearing a South Africa one-day shirt.

The incident happened beside the tunnel at the Wanderers after Stokes was walking back following his dismissal for two during the evening session. TV coverage picked up Stokes responding to a fan off-camera, shouting: “Come and say it to me outside the ground you fucking four-eyed cunt.”

Related: Ben Stokes apologises for foul-mouthed tirade at fan after ‘Ed Sheeran’ jibe

The all-rounder issued an apology on Friday evening, saying: “I wish to apologise for my language that was heard on the live broadcast today after my dismissal. I should not have reacted in that way.

“As I was leaving the playing area, I was subjected to repeated abuse from the crowd. I admit my reaction was unprofessional, and I sincerely apologise for the language I used, especially to the many young fans watching the live telecast around the world.”

Stokes, who had a clean disciplinary record over the past two years, met the International Cricket Council match referee, Andy Pycroft, before play on the second day and accepted the charge, which saw him receive one demerit point and a fine of £2,250 – 15% of his match fee.

If Pycroft had interpreted Stokes’ words as a threat to the spectator – a level three offence that carries the penalty of five to six demerit points – the 28-year-old would have been banned for two of England’s three T20s in South Africa, which is the next cricket he plays after this Test.

Pycroft took into account the apology from Stokes, who was named the BBC’s sports personality of the year in 2019, and the provocation from the supporter when making his decision to go with the lesser charge.

England have also asked for extra security at the Wanderers after raising concerns about abuse received by other players and support staff on the first day.

Ashley Giles, the England managing director of cricket, said: “In addition to this incident, members of our support staff were subjected to personal abuse during and after the day’s play. 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, that request was rejected on Saturday, with Reuben Niekerk from the venue’s operations team saying: “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.”