It is exactly two years ago to the day that Australian cricket made headlines for all the wrong reasons on the third day of the third Test match against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
Straight after lunch on a cloudy Saturday afternoon, Australia’s opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was caught on live television coverage and the big screen at Newlands to have put a foreign object in his trousers after removing it from his pocket.
The on-field umpires saw it and immediately went over to Bancroft but he dished out a sunglass pouch. It was quite clear from the evidence, though, that the hidden object was far smaller and indeed yellow.
At the same time, Australia coach Darren Lehman spoke to one of the reserve players on the side of the field to inform Bancroft that he could be in trouble, which resulted in him hiding the small piece of paper down his trousers.
At the end of the day’s play and with the Proteas in a rather commanding position to win the Test, Bancroft and captain Steve Smith admitted at the media conference to trying to alter the condition of the ball with a piece of sandpaper, with Smith being aware of it at the time.
The plan was hatched during the lunch break by players of the team’s leadership core with the hope of getting the ball to move around a bit.
It was later revealed that vice-captain David Warner told Bancroft, who was fairly new in the team at the time, to take up the order.
Smith admitted that afternoon that he made a massive judgement of error but stood firm by saying he would not step down as captain of the team.
The situation created a huge media storm and within hours Australian cricket was labelled as cheats all around the world. The pressure instantly built on the team and the governing body, and it led to Smith and Warner resigning from their leadership roles for the remainder of the Test match with Tim Paine taking over the captaincy.
Australia’s chances of winning the Test was all but over on day four when a clinical bowling performance by the South Africans handed the Proteas a 322-run victory.
Warner, Bancroft and Smith all received loud boos from the Newlands crowd when they were out in the middle that Sunday, while former cricketers from Australia and around the world all called for hefty sanctions against the players.
Cricket Australia’s CEO James Sutherland launched an immediate investigation into the matter and a few days after the Cape Town Test had finished the board charged the three players for ‘bringing the game into disrepute’.
24 hours later all three players were sanctioned for their actions, with Warner and Smith receiving 12-month bans from all cricket, while Bancroft copped a nine-month suspension.
The players were sent home to Australia as replacements were called up for the final Test match in Johannesburg.
All three of them delivered emotional public apologies upon their arrival back in Australia, while they were heavily criticised throughout the cricketing world.
Given the impact it had on the team, Lehman, on the same day, announced that he would resign from his role as head coach following the completion of the last Test.
South Africa would go on to win the final encounter at the Wanderers by a mammoth 492 runs, thanks to centuries by Aiden Markram and Faf du Plessis in the respective innings, while Vernon Philander took a career-best 6-21 in the second innings as the Proteas claimed the series 3-1.