Cricket / Third Test: De Villiers receives rap across knuckles

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THERE was some talk at The Oval yesterday about having a players' whip-round to pay Michael Atherton's fine, but if the hat went anywhere near South Africa's pace bowler, Fanie de Villiers, the collection would not have been increased by much more than a couple of buttons and a Polo mint, writes Martin Johnson.

De Villiers followed the England captain into the match referee's notebook for dissent, and he, like Atherton, would not have sustained much of an injury had he then dropped his wallet on his toe. The South African was fined 25 per cent of his match fee for dissent, another 70 per cent for his team's over-rate fine, and the five per cent left amounted to pounds 30.

Peter Burge, the International Cricket Council referee who fined Atherton 50 per cent of his match fee on Friday (around pounds 1,500) wielded the stick again yesterday, when De Villiers disagreed with umpire Ken Palmer's not-out decision for a caught-behind appeal against Graeme Hick.

De Villiers, in a manner far from uncommon nowadays, ran down the pitch to congratulate the wicketkeeper, without having first confirmed that the umpire shared his opinion, and when Palmer's finger remained holstered, De Villiers turned and threw up both arms in disbelief.

Palmer and the independent New Zealand umpire, Steve Dunne, both reported the incident, although after Burge's heavy-handed treatment of Atherton, a fine would have been inevitable. As this was the first time De Villiers has appeared before an ICC beak, Burge went for the 25 per cent knuckle-rap rather than Atherton's 50 per cent smacked bottom. Even so, it is just as preposterous.