Australia Ball-Tampering Row: The Story So Far

A recap of the entire ball-tampering scandal so far.

Updated29 Mar 2018, 08:18 AM IST
4 min read

Australian cricket's hurried investigation into the plot by its captain and other players to cheat in a game against South Africa has revealed that the vice-captain David Warner was behind the plan, he "instructed" a young player to tamper with the ball on the field using a piece of sandpaper hidden in his pocket, and captain Steve Smith knew about it in advance but let it happen.

Here's everything we now know about the scandal that rocked cricket and shattered the reputation of the hugely successful Australia team:

Chief Culprit

Batsman and vice-captain David Warner had a series of disciplinary problems even before he was fingered as the player behind Australia's elaborate ball tampering plan to cheat South Africa during the third test in Cape Town over the weekend.

Cricket Australia's investigation found that Warner came up with the plan in the dressing room during a break in play, ordered young batsman Cameron Bancroft to do the tampering, and even showed the newcomer to the team how to rub the sandpaper against one side of the ball to rough it up. It's strictly prohibited in cricket to use a foreign object to change the condition of the ball.

Warner, now on the verge of being vilified by the Australian media and public, also misled match officials and tried to cover up his role in the plot.

Warner was banned from playing for Australia for 12 months and can never hold a leadership role in the team again. Smith was also banned for 12 months and Bancroft banned for nine months.

“Sandpaper, Lies and Videotape”

That's how parts of the Australian media are describing the scandal that outraged a nation and led to severe criticism of the Australia team, both at home and across the cricket world.

Cricket Australia says it has gotten to the bottom of the mess and Warner, Smith and Bancroft were the only ones involved in the plot, and head coach Darren Lehmann had no role in it.

But the results of the investigation raised more questions, for one over Australian officials' statement that Bancroft used a piece of sandpaper to do the tampering. Bancroft himself confessed on Saturday to using a piece of yellow sticky tape that he then stuck "granules" of dirt to in order to replicate the effect of a piece of sandpaper. Did the players lie then about using adhesive tape?

Cricket Australia James Sutherland was asked if the players had lied. "I'm not going to go into the detail," he said.

Also a point of interest is Lehmann's possible role. Lehmann talked to a substitute fielder on a walkie-talkie soon after Bancroft was caught on TV tampering with the ball. The substitute, Peter Handscomb, then ran out onto the field, spoke to Bancroft, and Bancroft hid the piece of paper down the front of his trousers.

It's been suggested Lehmann was warning his player to get rid of the evidence. Sutherland explained the incident by saying Lehmann had sent Handscomb out to ask his players "what the hell is going on? He didn't use hell, he used another word," Sutherland said.

The Reaction

Has been divided.

Kevin Pietersen, the former England batsman who had his fair share of battles with Australia, said he felt sympathy for Smith, Warner and Bancroft, partly because he suspected a cover-up to protect others.

"Yes they were involved and will be sanctioned but I'm afraid they weren't the only ones (& I don't think anyone else believes they were)..." Pietersen wrote on Twitter.

When Smith first confessed to the cheating plot, he said it was the idea of a "leadership group" along with Bancroft, suggesting more players.

Other former cricketers expressed doubt that Lehmann didn't know about a plot hatched in the team dressing room involving his two most senior players.

The bans have been seen as harsh, especially considering that the International Cricket Council gave Smith a one-test ban for the offense, gave Bancroft no ban, and didn't even charge Warner with anything.

"The jump to hysteria is something that has elevated the offence beyond what they actually did," former Australia cricket great Shane Warne wrote in the Herald Sun newspaper.

Coach Lehmann said the three players had made "a grave mistake but they're not bad people."

Even former England captain Michael Vaughan, no friend of the Australia team, tweeted that the bans for Smith and Bancroft were "too harsh."

Regarding Warner, however, Vaughan wrote: "The other guy I really don't care about."

What Next?

Somehow, the Australia team has to find the motivation to play the fourth test of the series against South Africa starting on Friday. Australia trails 2-1 in the series after a crushing loss in Cape Town amid the cheating scandal, and faces a first loss in a series in South Africa since 1970.

Australia will be without both its opening batsmen and its captain for the test and for the for-seeable future. The team, its morale in pieces, hasn't trained since arriving in Johannesburg for the decisive match.

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

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Published: 29 Mar 2018, 07:37 AM IST

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