Steve Smith and David Warner have stood down as leaders for the rest of the third Test over the ball-tampering bombshell, with Tim Paine now leading Australia in Cape Town.
Captain Smith and vice-captain Warner took the field under Paine’s leadership at Newlands, where the tourists were booed onto the field as day four started on Sunday.
The board of Cricket Australia (CA) is yet to make a decision on what to do with Smith and Warner, who are both under immense pressure to relinquish their leadership posts.
Smith and Warner agreed to stand down for the rest of the current match after speaking with CA chief executive James Sutherland on Sunday morning.
Smith confessed overnight that Australia’s leadership group authorised premeditated cheating at Newlands, wanting to use sticky tape in an illegal attempt to change the condition of the ball.
Cameron Bancroft used the tape while working on the ball in the post-lunch session then attempted to hide it from umpires. Bancroft has been charged with ball tampering by the match referee.
Aside from the obvious ethical issues, Smith’s relationship with some teammates may take some time to mend.
Senior players Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon are understood to be furious they have been implicated in the sordid practice.
When asked who was part of the discussion about using tape, Smith refused to name names but referred to “the leadership group”. Starc and Hazlewood have previously been part of that group, while Lyon’s name was bandied about by some outlets because of his experience.
Smith is set to be stood down as captain of his Indian Premier League team Rajasthan Royals. Warner leads Sunrisers Hyderabad and his image has also taken an immense hit.
Smith travelled to the ground on the team bus on Sunday then sequestered himself from the side. Smith’s 10 ashen-faced teammates all warmed up on the morning of day four but their leader was nowhere to be seen.
Smith and Warner are likely to be charged by the International Cricket Council but the prospect of more stern punishments looms large.
“I won’t be considering stepping down. I still think I’m the right person for the job,” Smith told reporters after day three.
The ugly episode has prompted an outpouring of shock and condemnation, with the Australian Sports Commission leading calls for Smith and “any other members of the team leadership group or coaching staff who had prior awareness” to be stood down.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighed into the saga on Sunday.
“I’ve spoken with David Peever, the chairman of Cricket Australia, a few moments ago and I’ve expressed to him very clearly and unequivocally my disappointment and my concern,” Turnbull said.
CA has dispatched team performance chief Pat Howard and head of integrity Iain Roy to South Africa.
“Today was a big mistake,” Smith said.
“I take responsibility as the captain. I need to take control of the ship.
“I’m incredibly sorry for trying to bring the game into disrepute.”
Smith insisted coaching staff, including Darren Lehmann, were not aware of the premeditated plan and that his side have never tried using tape to scuff the ball before.