The cricket world is stunned by Australia’s admission that it endorsed cheating after Cameron Bancroft was caught red-handed tampering with the ball.
Captain Steve Smith, who has made it clear he doesn’t intend to stand down as skipper, discussed with his leadership group the merits of using sticky tape to illegally alter the ball at lunch on day three of the contest in Cape Town.
Cameron Bancroft was then caught using the tape, which was embedded with abrasive debris from the pitch in a bid to scar the ball’s surface and make more responsive to swing and spin.
The opener, who ridiculously attempted to hide the tape from umpires by dropping it into his underpants, has been charged by the match referee.
Former captain Michael Clarke was among the millions of Australians waking up on Sunday to headlines and news bulletins they could scarcely believe.
England’s ex-skipper Michael Vaughan led the chorus of condemnation from other former players.
“Steve Smith,his Team & ALL the management will have to accept that whatever happens in their careers they will all be known for trying to CHEAT the game,” Vaughan tweeted.
The four-Test series between Australia and South Africa has been marred by a handful of ugly controversies, starting with the staircase stoush between David Warner and Quinton de Kock.
There isn’t exactly a good time for such an incident to unfold but it could hardly have been timed more poorly for Smith’s side and Cricket Australia.
On the field, the series was locked 2-1 and it is obvious the team’s desperation to win has overridden their moral compasses.
Off the field, Cricket Australia has been trying to improve the image of its side while lodging an official complaint about the vile nature of abuse from South African spectators.
Now, after Smith’s admission, the return volley will be one of brazen hypocrisy.
“The Australian camp has been lecturing people lately on how the game should be played and a line that shouldn’t be crossed,” former England captain Nasser Hussain told Sky Sports.
“Some of the stuff that has come out of the Australian camp, especially, has been laughable.
“Well, it looks like they’re on the wrong side of the line here.
“It does not look good for the image of the game.
“It looks terrible, a premeditated move to get reverse swing and a blatant attempt to ball tamper.”
Injured Proteas paceman Dale Steyn and recently-retired batsman Kevin Pietersen questioned whether coach Darren Lehmann was aware of Australia’s plan, something Smith denied while speaking to reporters.
“This will be Darren Lehmann’s greatest test as a coach, cos (sic) I will struggle to believe that this was all Bancroft’s idea,” Pietersen posted on Twitter.
Steyn replied that “nothing in professional sport is done without the consent of your captain and coach”.