Steven Smith and David Warner have been removed as Australia’s captain and vice-captain for the remainder of the Cape Town Test against South Africa, as the first fallout of the ball-tampering confession Australia made on the third day of the Test. Wicketkeeper Tim Paine will lead the side for the last two days of the contest.
“Following discussions with Steve Smith and David Warner they have agreed to stand down as captain and vice-captain respectively for the remainder of this Test match,” Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said on the morning of the fourth day’s play. “This Test match needs to proceed, and in the interim we will continue to investigate this matter with the urgency that it demands.
“As I said earlier today, Cricket Australia and Australian cricket fans expect certain standards of conduct from cricketers representing our country, and on this occasion these standards have not been met. All Australians, like us, want answers and we will keep you updated on our findings as a matter of priority.”
The CA chairman David Peever said the decision to appoint Paine followed an emergency Board meeting. The CA integrity chief Iain Roy and team performance manager Pat Howard are en route to Cape Town. “The Board of Cricket Australia has endorsed Tim Paine to step in as acting captain for the remainder of this Test,” he said. “Both Steve and David will take to the field today under Tim’s captaincy.
“The Board fully supports the process for an immediate investigation into what occurred in Cape Town. We regard this as a matter of the utmost seriousness and urgency. We will ensure we have all information available to make the right decisions for Australian cricket.”
Roy’s arrival and investigation may result in charges under CA’s code of behaviour, which features separate clauses relating to “unbecoming conduct” and “cheating”.
The decision to remove Smith and Warner, who took the field at Newlands under Paine’s leadership, came hours after the Australian government had called on Cricket Australia to take such a decision. The country’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also called the incident a “shocking disappointment”.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) Chair John Wylie, the ASC Board, and CEO Kate Palmer – essentially speaking for the Australian government – called for severe action against more of the team. “The ASC condemns cheating of any form in sport,” it said in a statement. “The ASC expects and requires that Australian teams and athletes demonstrate unimpeachable integrity in representing our country.
“Given the admission by Australian captain Steve Smith, the ASC calls for him to be stood down immediately by Cricket Australia, along with any other members of the team leadership group or coaching staff who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball. This can occur while Cricket Australia completes a full investigation.”
The incident took place during the afternoon session and was picked up on by TV cameras. A small, yellow object was seen in Bancroft’s hands after he had worked on the ball, and he was also captured taking it from his pocket and placing it down his trousers. The footage showed Bancroft rubbing the rough side of the ball, the opposite side to which he would usually be trying to shine on his trousers. He put the object down his pants apparently after being spoken to by the substitute Peter Handscomb, who had come on to the field after speaking to coach Darren Lehmann over walkie talkie. Lehmann seemed to speak to Handscomb after footage of Bancroft working on the ball was shown on the TV screens at the ground.
The umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth were then seen speaking with Bancroft, though they did not choose to change the ball or penalise the Australians five runs – the statutory on-field penalty for illegally changing the condition of the ball. When Bancroft spoke to the umpires, he was shown holding a bigger, black cloth rather than the small yellow object he had earlier seemed to place down his trousers.
Smith and Bancroft owned up to the offence at the press conference after play on the third day, and Smith said the leadership group within the team had known about the plan to tamper with the ball.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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