Steve Smith should learn the “significant sanctions” he faces later on Wednesday after seeing the Australia Test captaincy handed to Tim Paine in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal.
A Cricket Australia investigation into who was involved in the process that led to Cameron Bancroft attempting to alter the condition of the ball with sticky tape during the third Test against South Africa is due to conclude within 24 hours.
However, CA chief executive James Sutherland revealed some preliminary findings during a press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday – most notably that Bancroft, skipper Smith and vice-captain David Warner were the only members of the Australia set-up involved in the plot.
All three players were due to return to Australia on Wednesday, with Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw and Glenn Maxwell called up as replacements for the fourth and final Test of the series.
Wicketkeeper Paine, who took over the captaincy from Smith mid-match as the scandal unfolded during the tourists’ heavy defeat in Cape Town, has been appointed as Test captain while head coach Darren Lehmann will keep his job after being cleared of any involvement.
“I want to apologise to all Australians for what took place,” Sutherland said.
“The key finding is that prior knowledge of the ball-tampering incident was limited to three players – captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
“No other players or support staff had prior knowledge and this includes Darren Lehmann, who despite inaccurate media reports has not resigned from his position. He will continue to coach the Australia men’s team under his current contract.
“The three players on report, we are contemplating significant sanctions which will reflect the gravity of what has occurred and the damage it has done to the standing of Australian cricket.
“I fully understand the wish for urgency, however urgency must be balanced with due process.
“We’ll complete the process by tomorrow morning and in the next 24 hours we’ll be in a position to announce sanctions.”
Sutherland also moved to play down speculation that Australia’s players may have indulged in ball-tampering during their 4-0 Ashes win over England, stating that the Cape Town incident appeared to be isolated.
“The feeling from Iain (Roy, Cricket Australia’s head of integrity) in his review is that it’s an isolated incident, but again there are things that I don’t want to go into too much detail around right now,” he said.
“I certainly hope it’s an isolated incident, but it’s certainly one of significant concern.
“This is not in the laws of the game, it is not in the spirit of game and I am angry and disappointed. It is not a good day for Australian cricket.”
Michael Clarke, who Smith replaced as captain in 2015, was not impressed by the investigation’s initial findings.
He wrote on Twitter: “To (sic) many reputations on the line for the full story not to come out. Cape Town change room is a very small place!
“The truth, The full story, Accountability and Leadership- until the public get this Australian cricket is in deep s***!”