Explosive new ball-tampering bombshell
Former Test batter Cameron Bancroft appears to have answered one of the biggest lingering questions from the infamous ball-tampering saga which rocked the Australian sporting landscape in 2018.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Bancroft spoke candidly about the "sandpapergate" incident, which derailed his career and made global headlines three years ago.
During a Test match against South Africa in Cape Town, the West Australian was caught on camera rubbing sandpaper on the match ball before quickly hiding the yellow sheet in his trousers.
Cricket Australia's initial investigation concluded only three players were involved in the illegal practice, a finding which at the time raised several eyebrows.
CA banned Bancroft from all international and domestic cricket for nine months, while Test captain Steve Smith and opening batter David Warner were both handed 12-month suspensions.
None of the other Australian cricketers or staff were sanctioned for the incident, inevitably raising speculation on whether the punished trio were the only players who knew of the scheme.
However, national coach Darren Lehmann, high performance boss Pat Howard, and CA board director Mark Taylor all resigned in the aftermath.
Bancroft was directly asked by The Guardian if the team's bowlers were aware of the ball-tampering plot at the time, and the 28-year-old's response was telling.
"Yeah, look, all I wanted to do was to be responsible and accountable for my own actions and part," Bancroft said after a long pause.
"Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory … had I had better awareness I would have made a much better decision."
When pressed again on the matter, Bancroft responded: "Uh … yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it's pretty probably self-explanatory."
The four bowlers who featured in the Cape Town Test match were Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.
To many reputations on the line for the full story not to come out. Cape Town change room is a very small place!— Michael Clarke (@MClarke23) March 27, 2018
I’ve woken up this morning actually gutted for Smith, Warner & Bancroft.— Kevin Pietersen🦏 (@KP24) March 28, 2018
Yes they were involved and will be sanctioned but I’m afraid they weren’t the only ones(& I don’t think anyone else believes they were)...
I hope they get a fair trial.
In EVERY team I played in good luck doing anything to the ball without consulting the bowlers first! Be taking your life in your own hands! #sandpapergate— Matt Prior (@MattPrior13) March 27, 2018
Speaking on Fox Sports' The Back Page in June 2018, Hazlewood denied he had any knowledge of the ball-tampering scheme.
"No, no," he responded when asked if he knew of the plan.
"We obviously have ball maintenance people in the team, usually batsmen because they're in the circle and the bowlers field fine leg, deep square - where ever it is. They just look after the ball from time to time. As soon as it stops swinging normal then it starts to reverse swing.
"We pretty much get it (the ball) at the stop of our mark, one second before we start running in. So we have a quick look, see which side's a bit worn."
Other players have expressed frustration at being associated with the Cape Town incident, maintaining they were as shocked as anybody to see the footage of Bancroft.
"I remember seeing what happened up on the big screen and just getting a sick feeling in my stomach and just thought, 'Oh no, what's going on here? What's going to happen?'," Cummins told cricket.com.au in 2018.
Bancroft has previously claimed Warner was the teammate who asked him to tamper with the ball.
"Dave (Warner) suggested to me to carry the action out on the ball given the situation we were in the game and I didn't know any better," Bancroft told Fox Sports in December 2018.
"I didn't know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued really, as simple as that.
"The decision was based around my values, what I valued at the time and I valued fitting in … you hope that fitting in earns you respect and with that, I guess, there came a pretty big cost for the mistake."
Bancroft returned to the Test side in 2019, representing Australia in two matches of that year's thrilling Ashes series.
However, he hasn't played any international cricket since the rain-affected draw at Lord's.
The right-hander scored 678 runs during the 2020/21 Sheffield Shield, scoring three centuries and averaging 48.42 in eight matches.
Victoria's Marcus Harris was the only opening batter to accumulate more Shield runs last summer.
Bancroft is currently preparing to join Durham for another stint in the County Championship.
Read Cameron Bancroft's full interview with The Guardian
Originally published as Explosive new ball-tampering bombshell