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Australia in crisis after captain Smith’s ball-tampering confession

Australian cricket is engulfed in crisis.

The “friendless” Australian cricket team and under-fire captain Steve Smith have been described as a “train wreck” as the sport comes to terms with their ball-tampering confession.

Former Australian pace bowler Jason Gillespie was just one voice to call for Smith’s captaincy to end in the wake of the controversy, saying it was “impossible to envisage a scenario where he stays in the job”.

Criticism in the wake of Cameron Bancroft’s attempt to manipulate the ball with sticky tape and debris from the pitch on day three of the Third Test against South Africa in Cape Town was not restricted to the cricketing world either.

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Australia are embroiled in controversy

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull labelled the incident a “shocking disappointment” and called on Cricket Australia to take “decisive action” as the governing body launches an investigation.

Smith will not captain the side in the Fourth and final Test which starts on Friday, banned for one match by the International Cricket Council and fined his entire match fee after a personal intervention from chief executive Dave Richardson.

Smith and vice-captain David Warner stepped down from their roles for the fourth day of play in the third Test – in which a deflated Australia collapsed to defeat by 322 runs – but both of their long-term futures remain under scrutiny.

“Steve Smith’s time as Australia captain is surely up,” Gillespie – a taker of 259 Test wickets – wrote in the Guardian.

“This is a train wreck. This was pre-planned cheating.”

Steve Smith's time as Australia captain is surely up Jason Gillespie

Smith absolved coach Darren Lehmann of blame when the saga blew up on Saturday, saying a group of senior players were the drivers of it.

“Who is this leadership group? Were the coaches involved? We need this information and we needed it yesterday,” Gillespie added. Lehmann has yet to comment.

Ex-England spinner Graeme Swann said the Australians had brought the fall-out upon themselves for acting as guardians of the game.

“You have to remember that this Australia team are so friendless in cricket because of the way they’ve carried on, and especially Warner,” he told BBC 5 Live.

“They’ve set themselves as this higher than high, this pious team who look down at everyone and set the benchmark for what is right and wrong in cricket, when everyone who’s played against them knows that’s an absolute joke.”

The South African fans made their feelings known as they booed Bancroft, Smith and Warner to and from the crease at Newlands. None of them hung around either, Australia losing 10 wickets after tea to fall to a heavy defeat.

Tim Paine was promoted to captain for the day, saying at the post-match press conference that Smith and Bancroft were “struggling” after “an absolutely horrible 24 hours”.

He added: “I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise.”

Richardson, who charged Smith with a serious breach of the spirit of the game, delivered a strident statement on recent developments.

“As captain, Steve Smith must take full responsibility for the actions of his players and it is appropriate that he be suspended,” he 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.

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Darren Lehmann (left) and Steve Smith (right) face questions

“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.”

CA chief executive James Sutherland, speaking earlier, vowed to look into what had happened.

“We will continue to investigate this matter with the urgency that it demands,” he said.

England may have a vested interest in developments too. Social media footage on Sunday showed Bancroft appearing to put sugar in his pocket during the Fifth test in Sydney. When asked by the Press Association if that series – and others – would be reviewed, a CA spokesman said: “We won’t be commenting on details of our investigation at this stage.”

Somerset said they would seek “all the facts” with Bancroft due to be their overseas player for 2018, while the Indian Premier League franchise Smith captains, the Rajasthan Royals, said: “(We) await further instructions from BCCI, before we make any announcement.

“We at Rajasthan Royals will not tolerate any actions that are unfair by definition and bring disrepute to the game of cricket. Our zero tolerance policy applies to everyone in our team. Please bear with us.”

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