Australia in crisis after owning up to cheating
Captain Smith in fight for job after ball-tampering Opener Bancroft caught on camera trying to scuff ball
Steve Smith is fighting to remain as Australia captain after confessing that the team management had decided to cheat by tampering with the ball in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
Australian cricket became embroiled in its biggest crisis for years when Cameron Bancroft was caught by TV cameras trying to scuff the ball with tape. He hid the tape down his trousers when questioned by the umpires, producing a black cloth from his pocket in an attempted explanation of what he had used to wipe the ball.
But in an extraordinary end-of-play press conference, Bancroft admitted ball-tampering and Smith revealed it had been the idea of the team management during the lunch break.
“The leadership group knew about it. We spoke about it [ball-tampering] at lunch. I am not proud of what has happened. It is not in the spirit of the game, not in line with my integrity, the team’s integrity,” Smith said. “The leadership group’s integrity has come into question and rightly so. It won’t happen again under my leadership.
“We saw this game as such an important game. We have seen the ball reversing quite a lot throughout this series and our ball just did not look like it was going to go. That is a mistake on our behalf again. It is deeply regrettable.
“I still think I’m the right person for the job. I need to take control of the ship. This is certainly something I’m not proud of. I’m embarrassed to be sitting here talking about this.”
Smith and Australia’s head coach, Darren Lehmann, will be under pressure to step down or face being sacked. Last night BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew called Smith’s position as captain “untenable” while, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, former England captain Michael Vaughan said it is “a sad sate of affairs” if Smith is allowed to stay on. Shane Warne tweeted that he was “very disappointed with the pictures”.
The match referee, Andy Pycroft, has charged Bancroft with trying to alter the conditions of the ball, but must decide whether to take action against Smith.
Ball-tampering is quite a minor offence in the playing regulations, carrying a maximum one-Test ban, but it is the reputational damage to Smith and Australia that could have wider ramifications.
Bancroft, who is playing in his eighth Test, said: “We had a discussion during the break and I took an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from the rough patches on the wicket and try to change the ball condition.
“It did not work. The umpires did not change the ball, but once I was sighted on the screens I panicked and that resulted in me shoving it down my long trousers.
“I will deal with the damage that comes to my reputation as a consequence. I don’t think I was coerced. I was nervous about it because there are hundreds of cameras around.
“Unfortunately I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I am accountable for my actions as well. I’m not proud of what has happened.”
In 1994, England captain Mike Atherton was fined £2,000 for balltampering against South Africa while in 2006 England were awarded five penalty runs at the Oval after Pakistan were ruled to have doctored the ball.
Caught out: Australia’s Cameron Bancroft is confronted by the umpires over ball-tampering in the third Test against South Africa