Johannesburg: Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are facing "significant sanctions" over Australia's ball-tampering scandal, according to Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, but coach Darren Lehmann appears set to survive for now at least.
Due to an ongoing investigation it will not be until Wednesday local time here that penalties against Smith, Warner and Bancroft are announced, but the trio would be sent back to Australia on Wednesday.
In an indication of the severity of the sanctions expected, particularly against Smith and Warner, Sutherland confirmed CA would come down very hard to "reflect the gravity of the situation".
He said it had been established that only three players had prior knowledge of the scandalous episode during the third Test against South Africa at Newlands on Saturday.
While Smith, Warner and Bancroft are facing the music - lengthy bans are expected, and Smith and Warner are set to be stripped of the captaincy and vice-captaincy respectively - Sutherland denied reports that Lehmann was resigning.
The head coach's position will be scrutinised, however, in an upcoming independent review of the culture of the Australian team.
No other players or support staff had prior knowledge. This includes Darren Lehmann," Sutherland said.
"He will continue to coach the Australian men's team under his current contract (which runs until the end of the 2019 Ashes)."
Sutherland raised eyebrows when he refused to utter the 'c' word after being asked repeatedly by reporters whether what had transpired in Cape Town was cheating.
"This is not in the laws of the game," he said when probed on the subject. "It’s not in the spirit of the game, and again I am angry and disappointed."
Asked again whether it was cheating, he said: "It is not a good day for Australian cricket."
Sutherland also refused to declare whether or not Smith could lead Australia again in the future.
Wicketkeeper Tim Paine has officially been appointed as the caretaker captain, rubber-stamped by the CA board as the country's 46th Test skipper.
Warner has been painted as the central character of the dressing-room conversation in the lunch break on the third day of the match that led to Bancroft using yellow tape to try and alter the condition of the ball - and then being sprung trying to cover it up by hiding it down his underpants.
There has also been a fall-out between some players over where responsibility for the behaviour lies.
Sutherland, however, was unable to reveal whose idea it was to bring a foreign object onto the ground to use on the ball.
"There are issues that I can’t go into because we’re in the midst of process," he said.
"I suspect some of that will come out in due course but it’s not appropriate because of the technical nature of things and the process that we’re working through for me to divulge details of the investigation."
With the fourth Test starting on Friday, the three replacement players for Smith, Warner and Bancroft are Matthew Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns.
In a reflection of the seriousness of the situation the team, which would usually have its main pre-match session two days before a game, will not train on Wednesday.
Smith, Warner and Bancroft were reported for breaching article 2.3.5 of CA’s code of conduct, which relates to play that is unfair or against the spirit of the game.
“I understand the appetite for urgency given the reputation of Australia as a sporting nation has been damaged in the eyes of many.
"However, urgency must be balanced with due process given the serious implications for all involved."James Sutherland
“In addition to sanctions for individuals, Cricket Australia will initiate an independent review into the conduct and culture of our Australian men’s teams.
“We will have more to say about this review in the coming days, but it will be conducted by an expert panel who will report to the Cricket Australia Board."
Sutherland met with a "distraught" Smith at the Australian team's hotel in the city's Sandton district late on Tuesday afternoon, local time, before fronting a packed news conference in another nearby hotel.
Earlier, the CEO had been briefed by CA's head of integrity Iain Roy, who had conducted interviews with players and staff in Cape Town, and executive general manager of team performance Pat Howard.
There was then a lengthy telephone hook-up between Sutherland and CA directors, who had sat up late in Australia to discuss the fate of those found to be complicit in the affair.
Smith and Warner had already stood down from their leadership positions for the fourth and ultimately final day of the third Test on Monday and Smith had been suspended by the International Cricket Council from the last match of the series.