March 24, 2018 11:16 pm
CAPE TOWN (AFP) –
Australia captain Steve Smith was fighting to save his job and reputation on Saturday after admitting he was the chief plotter in the ball-tampering scandal which has plunged cricket into potentially its greatest crisis.
Smith insisted he will not quit after teammate Cameron Bancroft was caught using a yellow object to alter the condition of the ball on the third day of the third Test against South Africa at Newlands.
“I still think I’m the right person for the job,” said Smith.
But calls were being made for the 28-year-old to stand down after he admitted he was the mastermind of the premeditated plan hatched during the lunch break on Saturday.
“The leadership group knew about it. We spoke about it at lunch. I’m not proud of what happened. It’s not in the spirit of the game,” explained Smith who took over the captaincy from Michael Clarke in 2015.
“Obviously today was a big mistake on my behalf and the leadership group’s behalf as well, but I take responsibility. I need to take control of the ship. This is something I’m not proud of.”
Television footage showed Bancroft, 25, take a yellow object out of his pocket while fielding in the post-lunch session and appearing to rub it on the ball.
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I want to be here (in the press conference) because I want to be accountable for my actions,” said the opening batsman.
Smith insisted that coach Darren Lehmann was not part of the conspiracy even though footage appeared to show the coach sending a message onto the field with 12th man Peter Handscomb after the first footage of the incident.
“The coach isn’t involved. It was purely the leadership group and the players came up with this,” added Smith, who is playing in the 64th Test of a career which has yielded more than 6,000 runs.
“We saw this as such an important game. We’ve obviously seen the ball reversing quite a lot throughout this series and the ball just didn’t look like it was going to go. That’s a mistake on our behalf.”
Bancroft was spoken to by umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth after appearing to have the object in his hand while fielding the ball at cover.
While the umpires were conferring, Bancroft then appeared to place the small yellow object in his underpants.
When the umpires went across to talk to him he reached into a pocket and showed them what looked like a soft pouch for sunglasses.
The umpires took no action and did not change the ball.
“I was sighted on the screen and that resulted in me shoving it down my trousers. I panicked quite a lot,” said Bancroft.
There were boos from a capacity crowd at Newlands when the incident was shown on the big screen.
Bancroft said he had met with the match officials after play and faced a charge of attempting to change the condition of the ball.
“We had a discussion during the break. On myself I saw an opportunity to use some yellow tape and the granules from the rough patches of the wicket to change the condition of the ball,” said Bancroft who is playing in his eighth Test.
– ‘Premeditated attempt to cheat’ –
Asked whether Australia had used similar methods in previous matches, notably in the first Test in Durban, where Mitchell Starc achieved prodigious reverse swing, Smith said: “You can ask questions as much as you like but I can promise you this is the first time it has happened. I’ve made it clear it is regrettable and we move on from this and hopefully will learn something from this.”
The scandal provoked widespread condemnation by former players.
“This was a premeditated move by the Australian captain to cheat,” said former England skipper Nasser Hussain.
Australian leg-spin legend Shane Warne added: “I feel a bit for Cameron Bancroft because I don’t think he’s taken it upon himself to do something and put it in his pocket.”
Michael Vaughan, another former England captain, said all of the Australian team and coaches would forever be remembered as cheats.
“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,” tweeted Vaughan.
The four-match series, which has been plagued by bust-ups between the two teams, is locked at 1-1 and South Africa finished the third day in a strong position, 294 runs ahead with five wickets in hand.
by Colin BRYDEN
© 2018 AFPTags: Sport
Categorised in: Breaking News
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