24 March 2018 was a dark day in Australian cricket as one of the biggest sporting scandals ever emerged. ANDRE HUISAMEN details the run of events in what became known as ‘Sandpapergate’.
Saturday, 24 March:
- Proteas hold a 56-run lead over Australia at the start of their second innings.
- TV replay emerges, showing Bancroft rubbing his hand over the ball and then against his trousers. He is then seen putting something into his pocket.
- Australia coach Darren Lehman is seen communicating to substitute fielder Peter Handscomb, who then rushes on to the field to talk to Bancroft.
- A second camera angle then shows, in slow motion, how Bancroft takes a small yellow piece of paper from his pocket and sticks it into his pants front.
- The snippet is shown on live TV and at the stadium, which leads to the umpires confronting Bancroft. Captain Steve Smith joins the chat and Bancroft pulls out a sunglass cover, while the crowd begins to moan about what they’ve seen.
- The Proteas continue to dominate with the bat and reach stumps in a commanding position.
- Bancroft and Smith make their way to the media conference at end of play and come clean that it was an orchestrated plan to try to influence the ball to get reverse swing. Smith admits it was the leadership group that forced Bancroft to do it. Smith apologises but makes it clear that he won’t be stepping down as captain as a result.
Sunday, 25 March:
- Cricket Australia releases a statement before the start of the fourth day’s play, saying Smith and David Warner have stepped down as captain and vice-captain for the remainder of the Test match. Tim Paine takes over as captain.
- Australia’s prime minister takes aim at the team, saying it is ‘beyond belief’ that they cheated. Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland travels to South Africa to address the issue in person.
- The ICC announces Smith has been suspended for the fourth Test, while Bancroft receives one demerit point and is fined his whole match fee.
- The Proteas thrash Australia by 322 runs to take the lead in the series.
Monday, 26 March:
- Sutherland arrives in Johannesburg and leads CA’s investigation into the matter.
- Smith also steps down as captain of the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.
Tuesday, 27 March:
- Smith, Warner and Bancroft are all sent home by CA and will not be available for selection for the fourth Test in Johannesburg. Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell are called up as replacements.
Wednesday, 28 March:
- CA bans Smith and Warner for one year from all forms of international and domestic cricket, while Bancroft cops a nine-month suspension. Warner is also told he will never be considered for any leadership positions in the team again.
Heartbreaking. Steve Smith has broken down delivering a message to young Aussie cricket fans. pic.twitter.com/l14AsvAhXz
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 29, 2018
Thursday, 29 March:
- A devastated Smith and Bancroft face the Australian media upon arrival back in the country. Both players apologise emotionally, with Smith breaking down in tears.
- Lehmann announces that he is stepping down as coach of national team due to safety concerns for his family. He reiterates his stance that he knew nothing about the plan to cheat.