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Cricketer Nathan Lyon laughs at sandpaper taunt amid ball-tampering scandal in South Africa

Australian off-spin bowler Nathan Lyon couldn’t help but laugh when a young South African fan on the boundary offered him a piece of sandpaper for his autograph

Australian off-spin bowler Nathan Lyon couldn’t help but laugh when a young South African fan on the boundary offered him a piece of sandpaper for his autograph yesterday.   

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The 30-year-old, who has hit headlines in recent months after Daily Mail revealed he left his wife of nine years for a glamorous younger blonde, refused to sign but gave the boy a cheeky smile on the fourth day of the Test Match in Cape Town.

The fan was taunting Lyon by suggesting the Australians use sandpaper to tamper with the ball after they were caught cheating on Saturday.  

Captain Steve Smith incredibly admitted to a premeditated plan for Cameron Bancroft to illegally alter the ball’s condition during day three of the Test against South Africa.

Smith and his vice-captain David Warner subsequently stepped down before the fourth day’s play at Newlands, with Tim Paine temporarily taking up the role for the final two days of the third Test.

After play got under way in Cape Town on Sunday, Nathan Lyon found himself fielding on the boundary and even offered to sign autographs for supporters.

One South African boy thought this was the perfect time to add to the Australian woes.

He grabbed a piece of sandpaper, a material which would certainly alter the shape and behaviour of a cricket ball, and held it out to the Australian off-spinner. 

One Twitter user said: ‘There’s a kid at Newlands trying to get Nathan Lyon to sign a piece of sandpaper. The crowd is in stitches. #SandpaperGate’. 

One South African fan asked Nathan Lyon to sign a piece of sandpaper at Newlands on Sunday

One South African fan asked Nathan Lyon to sign a piece of sandpaper at Newlands on Sunday

It comes after Cameron Bancroft found himself at the centre of ball-tampering allegations

It comes after Cameron Bancroft found himself at the centre of ball-tampering allegations

He was seen running his hand over the ball, before removing a yellow object from his pocket

The Australia player was then spotted putting the object down the front of his trousers

The opening batsman was seen running his hand over the ball, before removing a yellow object from his pocket and placing it down the front of his trousers

An image emerged on the third day of David Warner signing what appeared to be a sheet of sandpaper before Smith admitted to the premeditated plan to change the ball’s condition. 

It emerged on Monday morning that Steve Smith is facing a life ban from cricket for cheating, despite escaping with a one-match suspension from the ICC after admitting to ball tampering.

Cricket Australia’s Head of Integrity Iain Roy has begun interviewing players in South Africa as part of a ‘full investigation’ into the cheating scandal.

Code of behaviour charges are expected to follow, leading to a verdict by an independent commissioner who could impose the maximum penalty of a life ban on both Smith and David Warner for conduct contrary to the spirit of the game.

Smith, Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft were booed from the field as Australia lost ten wickets for 50 runs on the third day of a Test match, and were later hounded by reporters asking ‘Why did you cheat?’ as they entered their hotel. 

After play got under way in Cape Town on Sunday, Nathan Lyon (pictured, centre on Saturday) found himself fielding on the boundary and even offered to sign autographs for supporters

After play got under way in Cape Town on Sunday, Nathan Lyon (pictured, centre on Saturday) found himself fielding on the boundary and even offered to sign autographs for supporters

Nathan Lyon and new girlfriend Emma McCarthy shared a romantic candle-lit dinner in Cape Town ahead of the third test between Australia and South Africa

Nathan Lyon and new girlfriend Emma McCarthy shared a romantic candle-lit dinner in Cape Town ahead of the third test between Australia and South Africa

Smith’s predecessor Michael Clarke took a softer line on the embattled captain, and said on Monday morning he should be forgiven.

‘The other thing which I know it will be really hard for a lot of people and will take a lot of time, and I accept that, but forgiveness,’ said Clarke on the Today show.

‘I do feel for Steve Smith. 100 per cent he has made a major mistake. Him, and I think a lot of people, will have to suffer the consequences, and I think that’s fair enough.

‘I think that’s fair enough, but I think it is important that we do, over time, forgive as well.’

Clarke went on to say he hopes Smith is not surrounded by paparazzi on his return to Australia, and is able to leave his home without being stared at. 

Cricket legend Shane Warne weighed into the scandal in commentary, and said Steve Smith may never captain Australia again. 

Warne said he could not see Smith returning as team leader, and Tim Paine should lead the team until a long-term replacement is found. 

Steve Smith (pictured with his fiancee Dani Willis) could be facing a life ban from cricket for cheating, despite escaping with a one-match suspension after admitting to ball tampering

Steve Smith (pictured with his fiancee Dani Willis) could be facing a life ban from cricket for cheating, despite escaping with a one-match suspension after admitting to ball tampering

Cricket Australia's Head of Integrity Iain Roy has begun interviewing players in South Africa as part of a 'full investigation' into the cheating scandal (pictured are David Warner with his wife Candice Warner)

Cricket Australia’s Head of Integrity Iain Roy has begun interviewing players in South Africa as part of a ‘full investigation’ into the cheating scandal (pictured are David Warner with his wife Candice Warner)

'The other thing which I know it will be really hard for a lot of people and will take a lot of time, and I accept that, but forgiveness,' said Clarke on the Today show (pictured is Smith after he was stood down)

‘The other thing which I know it will be really hard for a lot of people and will take a lot of time, and I accept that, but forgiveness,’ said Clarke on the Today show (pictured is Smith after he was stood down)

‘You’d have to say it’s in real jeopardy as to whether he’ll ever captain again,’ Warne said as Australia crashed to a 322-run defeat in the Third Test against South Africa.

‘I think Paine will be the interim, but not for the long term and then they’ll work out just who is the best option for them.’ 

Despite his scathing assessment of Smith’s future, Warne said he and vice-captain David Warner should have been able to finish the Test, and not sacked halfway through.

‘I don’t think it’s the right thing Smith and Warner should be stood down during the match. Wait until the end of the Test match,’ he said.

‘At the end of the Test, if you want to get them out of the team and sack them as captain and vice captain, that’s fine, but not during the Test match.’    

WHO DID WHAT IN AUSTRALIA’S BALL-TAMPERING SCANDAL?

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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