Cape Town: A deeply ashamed Australian captain Steve Smith has admitted his team deliberately conspired to cheat on the third day of the third Test by having Cameron Bancroft use tape to illegally tamper with the ball.
While Bancroft has been charged by match referee Andy Pycroft and faces a one-Test suspension, the reputation of Smith and the Australian team is in tatters.
Smith said he would not be resigning from the captaincy but owned up to devising the plan to try and alter the condition of the ball with other senior members of the team at lunch on Saturday.
"The leadership group knew about it. We spoke about it at lunch," Smith said. "I'm not proud of what's happened. It's not within the spirit of the game. My integrity, the team's integrity, the leadership group's integrity has come into question and rightfully so.
"I'm not naming names but the leadership group talked about it and 'Bangers' was around at the time. We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage. Obviously it didn't work. The umpires didn't see it change the ball was behaving, or how it looked or anything like that. (It was) a poor choice and we're deeply regretful for our actions."
On a day in which South Africa strengthened their hold on the third Test - they lead by 294 runs with two days to play - controversy erupted when Bancroft was shown on television pull a small yellow item from his pocket and use it to work on the ball.
Soon after, when umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth were made aware of his actions he was seen to hide the object down the front of his underpants before walking over to them.
Asked by the officials what he had in his pocket, he then produced what appeared to be a black sunglasses cloth.
Bancroft said it was yellow tape and not sandpaper that he had taken onto the field.
"I saw an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from rough patches on the wicket to change the ball condition. It didn’t work. The umpires didn’t change the ball," he said.
“Once being sighted on the screen I panicked quite a lot and that resulted in me shoving it down my trousers.
“We have this yellow tape in our kit and it is connected to some padding but the sticky stuff is very sticky and I felt like it could be used to collect some stuff from the side of the pitch."
The opener, a recent addition to the side, said he was not ordered by Smith and other players to use the tape improperly.
"I don’t think in this particular case it was that way," Bancroft said. "I was in the vicinity of the area when the leadership group were discussing it. I’ll be honest with you, I was obviously nervous about it because with hundreds of cameras around that’s always the risk, isn’t it? I sit before you today and I’m not proud of what’s happened today."
As umpires were alerted on Saturday, Australian coach Darren Lehmann had been shown on the broadcast on the team balcony talking into a walkie-talkie. Substitute Peter Handscomb, also with a radio in hand in the players' dugout, then raced onto the field to talk to Bancroft, who quickly trousered the tape.
Smith, however, said that Lehmann and the Australian coaches had not been involved in cooking up the plan.
He said he would not be standing aside but with Cricket Australia chairman David Peever in Cape Town and other heavyweights at CA unlikely to be pleased, there is expected to be more fallout from the disgraceful episode.
"It's the middle of the night back in Australia, so we've just been made aware by the match referee and all that. I'm sure that will come," Smith said.
"I won’t be considering stepping down. I still think I’m the right the person for the job.
"Obviously, today was a big mistake on my behalf and on the leadership group’s behalf as well. But I take responsibility as the captain. I need to take control of the ship but this is certainly something I’m not proud of and something that I can hope learn from and come back strong from. I am embarrassed to be sitting here talking about this.
Smith was adamant that it was the first time Australia had used such tactics to cheat.
"You can ask questions as much as you like but I can promise you this is the first time it's happened and I think I've made it clear, we're regrettable and we'll move on from this," he said.
"Hopefully we'll learn something from it. I'm embarrassed, I know the boys in the shed are embarrassed as well, and I feel for Cam as well. It's not what we want to see in the game, it's not what the Australian cricket team's about, and being the leader of the team I'm incredibly sorry for trying to bring the game into disrepute the way we did today."
Bancfroft was also very apologetic about what transpired on Saturday. Ball tampering results in a level two charge under ICC rules and the penalty can be as high as four demerit points, which would automatically lead to him being suspended from the fourth Test in Johannesburg next week.
"Like the captain said, I’m not proud of what’s happened and I have to live with the consequences and the damage to my own reputation that comes with. I’ll do my best to move forward and play cricket," Bancroft said.