Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon have reiterated that they did not know anything about "a foreign substance being taken onto the field of play to alter the condition of the ball" at the Newlands Test of 2018, infamous as Sandpapergate. In a statement addressed "to the Australian public", Australia's bowling unit from that Test said that they had became aware of the use of sandpaper on the ball only after "we saw the images on the big screen".
"We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it's been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018," the statement read. "We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again.
"We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands.
"And to those who, despite the absence of evidence, insist that 'we must have known' about the use of a foreign substance simply because we are bowlers, we say this: The umpires during that Test match, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both very respected and experienced umpires, inspected the ball after the images surfaced on the TV coverage and did not change it because there was no sign of damage.
"We've all learned valuable lessons and we'd like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play"
"None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands. It was wrong and it should never have happened.
"We've all learned valuable lessons and we'd like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.
"We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo. It has gone on too long and it is time to move on."
The statement followed an interview with Cameron Bancroft in the Guardian where the batter, one of the three - Steven Smith and David Warner were the others - to serve a ban following the incident, said that it was "self-explanatory" that the bowlers had to know the ball had been tampered with.
Since then, former Australia captains Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist have offered their views on the issue, with Clarke saying he suspected more people knew what was going on, and Gilchrist suggesting that the incident had not been investigated thoroughly by Cricket Australia.
*Nick Hockley, the interim CA chief executive, said the governing body's integrity unit would not be contacting the former assistant coach David Saker in the same way that it had reached out to Bancroft following his comments. "No, not at this stage. We've put out the general message publicly that if anyone feels they have new information, they should come forward," Hockley said.
"We saw the media reports and our integrity unit reached out to Cam directly to ask whether he had new information. He came back overnight to confirm he's had no new information since the original investigation, and we're appreciative of him confirming that. We've also said publicly if anyone has any new information that they should come forward and present it."
As for what would happen should such information be presented, Hockley would not elaborate on the sort of action CA might then take. "I'm not going to speculate," he said. "We've got to work on the facts that we've got, at the moment we've got no new information since the original investigation."
Hockley said the episode had been a difficult one for many in cricket, as a re-opening of old scars from 2018. "It's challenging in the sense that it's re-opening or taking us back to what was a very bruising time for lots of people," he said. "A full and thorough investigation was done at the time, sanctions were handed out and they were served. Since that time there's been new leadership, who I think have done a tremendous job.
"You only have to watch The Test documentary to get great insight into the culture and how making Australians proud is a central tenet of the culture that that leadership has built and created. I'm really focused on taking all the learnings and the confidence we have from delivering a fantastic summer just gone, to taking that forward to what's going to be a massive Ashes summer ahead."
**The Australian captain Tim Paine said that Bancroft had been "caught on the hop" with his comments, leading to the bowlers' joint statement. "They felt they wanted to get that out there, and that's fair enough," Paine said in Hobart, a day after the bowlers issued their statement. "An investigation was done three years ago and positions on that haven't changed since and our behaviour since then has been exemplary, so for me as captain it's important we keep looking forward, we keep trying to be the best role models we can be, and we want to keep looking forward, not backwards.
"Some of the guys have spoken to Bangers, I don't think it was intentional to do anything. I think he was just caught on the hop a little bit, it happens, and the guys have responded ad now we're looking forward to a huge summer of cricket. The ball wasn't even changed on the field so there was no damage to it. If the umpires aren't seeing it then I'm not sure what the bowlers are supposed to see.
"I think they're frustrated that it keeps popping up but that's part and parcel for everyone who played in that Test match. It's going to keep popping up and you have to get used to that. their mood was fine, they've spoken to Bangers, cleared the air there and everyone's looking forward to moving on."
*GMT 1316, May 18: The story was updated to include Nick Hockley's statement. *GMT 0400, May 19: The story was updated to include Tim Paine's quotes.
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