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Australian cricket struggles to wash away stain of tampering scandal

Australian cricket coach Darren Lehmann arrives at a hotel in Sandton, South Africa March 27, 2018.
Australian cricket coach Darren Lehmann arrives at a hotel in Sandton, South Africa March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland arrived in South Africa on Tuesday to deal with the fallout from a ball-tampering scandal that has rocked the national sport, with coach Darren Lehmann expected to hand in his resignation ahead of the fourth Test against South Africa.


"We understand that everyone wants answers," Cricket Australia Chairman David Peveer said in a statement put out by Australian cricket's governing body.

That appears to be what Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland has travelled to South Africa to find out.

An investigation is underway to unravel the plot hatched by senior players to tamper with the ball during a game against rival South Africa.

The findings won't be due until Wednesday 28 March, but coach Darren Lehmann has already offered his resignation.

"His position is untenable now," cricket commentator Mark Church told RFI on Tuesday.

"If he knew about it, then he's part of that. And if he didn't know about it, why didn't he know about? He's the coach of the team, he should know exactly what's going on the whole time," he said.

Indelible stain

Lehmann has remained silent since Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera hiding a piece of yellow tape that was used to try and rough up the ball to make it more difficult for the batsman to hit during the third match of a controversial series.

"It's a complete stain on Australian Cricket now," reckons Church.

“What Australia have done is cheating, what's surprised everyone is the fact they've done it so blatantly," he said.

At the core of the row, is Bancroft's use of reverse swing.

The tactic whereby players get the ball to move in the air by shining it up on one side, has become the go-to tactic for most pacers around the world, and is not technically illegal.

But it is when they try and use a foreign object--in this case sticky tape--to manipulate the ball.

"In this age of a thousand cameras, it was stupid to even think of doing it (ball tampering), and incredibly stupid to go through with it," Ali Bacher, the last South Africa skipper to win a series against Australia in the republic told the South African media.

'Rubbish plan'

Australian captain Steve Smith admitted that senior players grouped under a so-called 'leadership group' encouraged Bancroft to use the sticky tape and then hide it in his trousers when caught out.

"As plans go, it's one of the most rubbish plans I think you could ever come up with," comments Church.

But Bacher says he "feels sorry for Cameron Bancroft." He would have been acting under instructions. If the leader of the team says you must do that, what option do you really have?"

Church is less sympathetic.

Playing for reputation

"Hang on! Cameron Bancroft is 25 years old, he's a big boy. He knows whether that's right or wrong. So, he should have said, I'm not doing it," insists the cricket commentator.

The fallout has seen captain Steve Smith dealt a one-match ban with calls for him to be permanently stripped of the Australian captaincy.

"Steve Smith will have this on him for the rest of his career," argues Church.

"Everytime he does anything now, he will be known as the captain of the team that cheated in a Test match."

Elsewhere, Matthew Renshaw has been flown in at the last minute to shore up Australia's squad ahead of the fourth and final test on Friday.

With the controversy showing no sign of abating, the Australian side will be playing for more than just victory, but to salvage what's left of their reputation.

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