Australia cricketers admitted ball tampering with a piece of sticky yellow tape in a stunning public confession on Saturday. Captain Steve Smith said he and other senior players came up with the idea to try and cheat and change the condition of the ball.
Young batsman Cameron Bancroft said he was tasked to carry out the tampering in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
In a hugely embarrassing moment for Australian cricket, Smith said he was “not proud at all” of what his team had done but insisted he would not resign the captaincy. He may not have a choice.
The plan was hatched, Smith said, as South Africa began to run away with the game on day three at Newlands. South Africa ended the day nearly 300 runs ahead.
Smith said it was the team’s “leadership group” that came up with the idea and put it into action, but he did not name the other senior players involved in the plot.
Smith insisted coaching staff had no knowledge of what was happening.
Bancroft said he was charged with ball tampering by match officials after play. He did not say if he pleaded guilty or if other members of the Australia team were also charged. They could still be if the ICC feels there was a conspiracy within the team, as Smith appeared to indicate, to try and cheat.
Bancroft and Smith made the confession at the post-day news conference.
“I’m embarrassed,” Smith said. “I sit before you today and I’m not proud of it at all.”
The confession came after television cameras caught Bancroft in the act on the field, leaving the Australians with little option.
Bancroft was caught holding a small yellow object which he later said was the piece of sticky tape. Bancroft said he tried to pick up rough granules from the side of the pitch with the sticky tape and rub it on the ball to try and change its condition.
That would likely aid the ball to reverse swing, which has been a huge factor in this series.
Multiple slow-motion replays on TV and broadcast on the big screen at Newlands, showed Bancroft holding the small piece of tape in one hand and pressing it against the ball as he tried to rough it up. He tried to hide the piece of tape in his underwear after umpires called him over to question what he had been doing.
“Having done that I panicked quite a lot and that obviously resulted in me shoving it down my trousers,” Bancroft said.
Although the two on-field umpires, Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong of England, questioned Bancroft at the time, he produced what appeared to be a black sunglasses bag from his right pocket in way of explanation, and clearly to deceive the umpires.
No action was taken by the umpires at the time, but match officials including referee Andy Pycroft of Zimbabwe were able to review TV footage of the incident.