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Australia tumble to heavy defeat against South Africa

Exactly who did what?

Rookie opener Cameron Bancroft has been fined 75 per cent of his match fee and handed three demerit points by the International Cricket Council after being charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball, contravening Law 41.3.

He admitted doing so by using some sticky tape from the team’s kit bag, sticking “granules” from the pitch to it and using it as an abrasive surface to scuff the ball in pursuit of reverse swing.

Captain Steve Smith said he and the “leadership group” had discussed and agreed the action. He stood down for the rest of the Test along with vice-captain David Warner, was handed a one-match suspension by the ICC and fined 100 per cent of his match fee.

Who else was in this leadership group?

Smith did not expand on that, but in the past Australia have indicated senior bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were part of their decision-making unit. Tim Paine’s promotion as temporary skipper seems to absolve him. Head coach Darren Lehmann is an obvious authority figure but Smith insists he was not involved on this occasion.

Does that check out?

Lehmann did appear to speak to 12th man Peter Handscomb via walkie-talkie after TV images caught Bancroft red-handed. Handscomb later spoke to Bancroft, who proceeded to hide the tape down the front of his trousers. Explanations will be required.

Why was no on-field sanction taken?

First of all, Bancroft appeared to deceive the umpires by showing them the holder for his sunglasses instead of his ad-hoc sandpaper. Secondly, his attempts to change the ball simply appeared to be unsuccessful. The umpires looked at the ball and did not take the chance to replace it. Had they done so they could have levied five penalty runs against Australia.

Do they deserve some credit for fronting up?

Not particularly. Even after their plot was uncovered by cameras they made a clear attempt to put the officials off the scent on the field. Only after their guilt was established beyond any serious doubt did Smith and Bancroft appear before the media. Others may not have faced the music quite like that, but others may not have put themselves in that position in the first place.

How has Australia’s recent behaviour been other than this?

To sum up, they are not a popular bunch. They are regarded as the game’s most inveterate, though far from only, sledgers. Despite this they have attempted to position themselves as guardians of “the line” – a concept they used against South Africa in this ill-tempered series. Their reaction to England’s disciplinary lapses in the Ashes – notably when Bancroft and Smith gave a jovial press conference on the subject of Jonny Bairstow’s ‘headbutt’ greeting – saw them lobbing rocks from a sizeable glass house.

Have they done this before?

Smith was quick to emphasise this was a regrettable first-time offence but scepticism is natural. It could be argued previous transgressions would have been picked up in just the way this one was, but that is unlikely to prevent people poring over footage of recent series, including the Ashes.

By Rory Dollard, Press Association Sport 



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