It has been announced that the charges laid against Mitchell Johnson and Ben Stokes for contravening Section 2.2.4 of the ICC Code of Conduct have been dismissed by match referee Jeff Crowe. No details of the basis of the dismissal have been released albeit one suspects that he determined that the contact between the players was unintentional (section 2.2.4 contains an intent element). Both players are now available for the third test match at Perth.
Mitchell Johnson and Ben Stokes have been charged with a breach of section 2.2.4 of the ICC’s code of player conduct following a clash of shoulders during the fourth day of the second test.
Section 2.2.4 of the Code provides that inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players in the course of play during an international cricket match shall constitute a Level 2 offence under the Code. The explanatory notes that go with code provided that players will breach section 2.2.4 if they deliberately walk or run into or shoulder another player.
Section 7.3 deals with possible punishments that may be issued by the match referee, if he finds the player guilty, of an offence under the Code. Assuming it is a first offence for both players (I can not recall Johnson as having been charged before and it is Stokes’ first game), then the possible punishment could be the imposition of a fine of between 50-100% of the applicable match fee and / or update two suspension points.
Section 7.4 explains that a test match shall carry a weighting of 2 suspension points should that penalty be imposed as a result of an infraction.
Section 7.5 deals with the imposition of suspension points and, most helpfully provides in section 7.5.3, that the match referees shall apply the suspension points to the subsequent intentional matches in which the player is most likely to participate in on a chronological basis immediately following the announcement of the decision.
All in all, given the conduct complained of in the charge, it seems to me that there is a real risk that both players could be found guilty and could have a match suspension imposed. There is an appeal process but whether that process could be enlivened in time to allow the players to play in the third test starting on Thursday is questionable. In this regard it should be noted that an appeal from a guilty verdict does not, by virtue of section 8.2 of the Code, stay the decision and the punishment unless the person hearing the appeal grants such a stay.
It will be interesting to see how Jeff Crowe, the match referee, resolves this matter given the spot light that is on player behaviour at the moment. It seems to me that, if guilty, a match suspension would send the right message to the teams that conduct of this type is not on given that they seemed to have missed that message after Michael Clarke was fined in the aftermath of the first test.