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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - How ball-tampering tarnished Australia's reputation

Steve Smith looks down as he addresses the media, as his father Peter looks on
Steve Smith looks down as he addresses the media, as his father Peter looks on

March 24, 2018 - Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft copped bans and much flak for their role in ball-tampering during the third Test match on Australia's 2018 tour of South Africa.

Australia have always prided themselves on playing hard but fair and not crossing the line, though many of their opponents may disagree. Where's the line anyway?

During the Newlands Test on the Australia tour of South Africa in 2018, Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera, shoving down a yellow object down his trousers. When umpires talked to Bancroft, the batsman produced what seemed to be a black sunglasses bag from his right pocket in way of explanation. The play was allowed to continue.

Drama began to escalate when during the post-match press briefing, Australia captain Steve Smith admitted that his side deliberately tried to tamper with the condition of the ball in an orchestrated attempt to gain an advantage. Bancroft admitted to using sticky tape after rubbing it on the rough side of one of the practice pitches to change the condition of the ball.

However, it soon came to light that the yellow object was actually sandpaper. Bancroft was charged by the International Cricket Council as Smith told reporters that it was a deliberate plan from the "leadership group", but added he would not step down as captain.

"The leadership group knew about it, we spoke about it at lunch," Smith said. "I am 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."

Steve Smith and David Warner relinquished their roles as Australia captain and vice-captain respectively for the last two days of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town as Tim Paine was named the stand-in captain. 

But things were not going to stop there. The matter was blown out of proportion when none other than Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: "We all woke up this morning shocked and bitterly disappointed by the news from South Africa. It seemed completely beyond belief that the Australian cricket team had been involved in cheating."

Australian cricket's Test of shame ended in a crushing 322-run defeat on the fourth day of the third Test. They went on to lose the series 3-1, and their pride.

Smith was initially handed a one-match suspension and fined 100% of his match fee by the ICC. Whereas, Bancroft was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and handed three demerit points for breaching Level 2 of the ICC Code of Conduct.

But, it was Cricket Australia which took drastic measures. Cricket Australia appointed head of integrity Iain Roy and head of team performance Pat Howard to conduct the investigation. Australian cricket's investigation into the cheating plot that plunged its team into crisis and threatens the future of its captain and best player began after two senior officials arrived in South Africa to start work uncovering the extent of the rot.

Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were soon handed bans. While Smith and Warner were banned from international and first-class cricket for one year and deemed ineligible to take up leadership roles for two years, the young Bancroft received a nine-month ban. Smith and Warner made a flying return at the 2019 ODI World Cup.

The Ethics Centre review commissioned by Cricket Australia set forth 42 recommendations. The 145-page report also refuted the "mistaken" view that CA had overseen a 'win at all costs' policy, but rather had fostered a philosophy to 'win without counting the cost'.

Since the Newlands saga, sledging has seen a decline, especially from the Australian players, with the likes of Warner making a visible effort to rein in their aggressive instincts.


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