Australia captain Steven Smith will not play the fourth Test against South Africa in Johannesburg, after the ICC gave him the maximum penalty for tampering with the ball on the third day of the Newlands Test. Fielder Cameron Bancroft, the player to actually tamper with the ball, was given three demerit points and fined 75% of his match fee after accepting the Level 2 charge.
Earlier on Sunday, Smith was stood down as captain by Cricket Australia for the rest of the ongoing Cape Town Test, while David Warner was removed as vice-captain. Both players took the field under the temporary leadership of wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
ICC chief executive David Richardson laid the charge against Smith under Article 2.2.1 of the ICC Code of Conduct which prohibits to 'all types of conduct of a serious nature that is contrary to the spirit of the game'. Smith accepted the charge and the sanction of two suspension points, which equates to a ban for the next Test match, and the 100% fine of his match fee. He will have four demerit points added to his record.
"The decision made by the leadership group of the Australian team to act in this way is clearly contrary to the spirit of the game, risks causing significant damage to the integrity of the match, the players and the sport itself and is therefore 'serious' in nature. As captain, Steve Smith must take full responsibility for the actions of his players and it is appropriate that he be suspended," ICC CEO David Richardson said.
"The game needs to have a hard look at itself. In recent weeks we have seen incidents of ugly sledging, send-offs, dissent against umpires' decisions, a walk-off, ball tampering and some ordinary off-field behaviour. The ICC needs to do more to prevent poor behaviour and better police the spirit of the game, defining more clearly what is expected of players and enforcing the regulations in a consistent fashion. In addition and most importantly Member countries need to show more accountability for their teams' conduct. Winning is important but not at the expense of the spirit of the game which is intrinsic and precious to the sport of cricket. We have to raise the bar across all areas."
The ICC confirmed that the umpires had been made aware of the possibility of ball tampering by television replays on the big screen at Newlands. The on-field umpires Richard Illingworth and Nigel Llong then spoke to Bancroft and Smith, before they the third umpire Ian Gould and fourth umpire Allahudien Palekar, laid the ball-tampering charges. They did not replace the ball nor award South Africa five penalty runs because they did not believe the ball's condition had been changed.
The match referee Andy Pycroft said he hoped Bancroft would learn from the episode. "To carry a foreign object on to the field of play with the intention of changing the condition of the ball to gain an unfair advantage over your opponent is against not only the Laws, but the Spirit of the game as well," he said.
"That said, I acknowledge that Cameron has accepted responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to the charge and apologising publicly. As a young player starting out in international cricket, I hope the lessons learned from this episode will strongly influence the way he plays the game during the rest of his career."