Ben Stokes apologises for altercation with South Africa fan as England all-rounder awaits likely disciplinary action

All-rounder Stokes had just been caught for two in England's 192-4 when he became enraged by comments coming from the stands at Johannesburg's Wanderers Stadium

Cricket - South Africa v England - Fourth Test - Imperial Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa - January 24, 2020   England's Ben Stokes is caught out by South Africa's Rassie van der Dussen   REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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Ben Stokes is awaiting likely disciplinary action having apologised for his foul-mouthed response to "repeated abuse from the crowd" during the opening day of England's fourth Test against South Africa.

All-rounder Stokes had just been caught for two in England's 192-4 when he became enraged by comments coming from the stands at Johannesburg's Wanderers Stadium. It is understood that several expletives were directed at the all-rounder - as well as a reference to popstar and fellow redhead Ed Sheeran - but only his colourful riposte was picked up by the cameras.

Stokes' angry outburst was captured by host network SuperSport, relayed by Sky in the UK and shared widely on social media, leaving him vulnerable to a charge under the International Cricket Council's code of conduct.

"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," he said in a statement on Friday.

"As I was leaving the playing area, I was subjected to repeated abuse from the crowd. I admit that 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.

"Throughout the Tests so far, the support from both sets of fans has been brilliant. One incident will not ruin such a competitive series, which we are determined to win."

Match referee Andy Pycroft did not take action before England departed for the day but, having already punished Jos Buttler and Kagiso Rabada in the series, seems certain to do so.

Stokes' comments are surely enough to activate article 2.3 which covers "the use of words commonly known and understood to be offensive, obscene and/or profane and which can be heard by the spectators and/or the viewing public". Like Buttler, Stokes could expect one demerit point and a deduction on his match fee.

For anything more damaging Pycroft would have to be satisfied that the incident was considerably more serious in nature. There is provision under the code to punish anything which would cause an individual "to fear harmful or offensive contact" but, as a level three offence, that would incur enough demerit points for a ban and would be open to appeal.

Ashley Giles, managing director of men's cricket at the England and Wales Cricket Board, was in attendance at 'the Bullring' and Stokes was not an isolated target.

"It is disappointing that a member of the public has gone out of their way to abuse Ben as he was leaving the field," said Giles.

"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."