A deeply ashamed Australian captain Steve Smith has admitted his team deliberately conspired to cheat on the third day of the third test by having Cameron Bancroft use tape to illegally tamper with the ball. While Bancroft has been charged by match referee Andy Pycroft and faces a one-test suspension the reputation of Smith and the Australian team is in tatters.
A remorseful Bancroft admitted he was nervous at taking on his role in the scam and panicked when he realised that cameras in the stadium had caught him in the act, placing the tape in his underwear to keep it out of the gaze of the umpires.
Smith said it was the first and last time the team had hatched such a plan and while he would not name the other conspirators, he said head coach Darren Lehmann was not involved. “The leadership group knew about it, we spoke about it at lunch,” Smith said. “I’m not proud of what has happened. It’s not in the spirit of the game, my integrity and the integrity of the team has been damaged and rightfully so. It’s not on and it won’t happen again, I can promise you.
Ball tampering is a level two offence in the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct, which could result in a ban for any player found guilty. Reverse swing has been a major part of this series, and players can increase that by roughing up the ball with foreign objects, which is strictly prohibited in cricket.
Indian great Sachin Tendulkar was once handed a one-match ban by match referee Mike Denness after a game against South Africa in Port Elizabeth. Television footage appeared to show Tendulkar scuffing the seam of the ball, but he was actually only removing a piece of grass. The ICC eventually cleared Tendulkar of any wrongdoing. Rahul Dravid was the other iconic Indian cricketer to be embroiled in tampering claims. In 2004, during an ODI in Australia, the then Indian vice-captain was charged for ball tampering and fined for rubbing a lozenge on one side of the ball. While Dravid denied the allegations, he was fined half of his match fees with the match referee Clive Lloyd saying that the ploy from Dravid had been deliberate.
The Bancroft incident was the latest in a string of contentious moments in the series. On Friday, the Australians lodged an official complaint with their South African hosts over what they called the abusive behaviour of home fans in Cape Town. Lehmann said several of his players had been verbally abused by the crowd. Lehmann called the fans’ behaviour “disgraceful” and Cricket South Africa ordered an increased security presence in the crowd on Saturday, that included police officers. South Africa’s test series against Australia has already seen more than its share of drama‚ but the most explosive episode yet unfolded at Newlands on Saturday.
An already Explosive test series has now gone nuclear with the Aussies confessing to ball-tampering.