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Darren Lehmann resigns as Australia head coach

Lehmann’s contract with Cricket Australia was due to run until next year.

Darren Lehmann will leave his post as Australia’s head coach after the fourth Test against South Africa, which begins on Friday.

Cricket Australia confirmed his resignation, which had appeared unlikely when it was announced earlier in the week that he would remain in his post under the terms of his contract.

That deal was due to run until the end of the 2019 Ashes series in England, but now Lehmann has joined the casualties of Australia’s Cape Town debacle.

Earlier on Thursday, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft both repeated their apologies for their part in the Australia ball-tampering scandal as cricket’s international governing body announced a wide-ranging review into the behaviour of players.

Smith and Bancroft fought back tears as they faced the media, with former captain Smith in Sydney and Bancroft in Perth.

Speaking at a press conference, Lehmann said: “I’m ultimately responsible for the culture of the team and I’ve been thinking about my position for a while.

“Despite telling media yesterday that I’m not resigning, after reviewing Steve and Cameron’s hurting it’s only fair that I make this decision.

“This will allow Cricket Australia to complete a full review into the culture of the team and allow them to implement changes to regain the trust of the Australian public.

“This is the right thing for Australian cricket.”

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Steve Smith

Cricket Australia announced its chief executive James Sutherland would speak to media at 2.45pm BST in Johannesburg following Lehmann’s decision.

David Warner, the third cricketer banned for the third Test ball-tampering plot which he devised, said on Twitter that his plan was a “stain on the game”.

An investigation into the ball-tampering by Cricket Australia had cleared Lehmann, with Sutherland saying on Tuesday the coach had no prior knowledge of the plot.

Lehmann, though, accepted that “as a team we know we’ve let so many people down and for that we’re truly sorry.”

The Australia coach also moved to stress while the three men involved “must face serious consequences” and had “made a grave mistake”, they “are not bad people.”

Like Smith and Bancroft, it was also an emotional experience to front the media for Lehmann, who choked back tears as he thanked his wife Andrea and four children as well as close friends “for allowing me to do this job and supporting me 100 per cent every step of the way”.

Lehmann said it had been a “wonderful experience” to coach the Australian cricket team, which he hoped could rebuild and move on, before asking the Australian public to “find it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the 11 who are going to take the field tomorrow”.

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Taunton

Somerset said Bancroft would not join them in the new season, as had been planned, because of his role in the saga.

The club’s chief executive Andy Hurry made the announcement, saying it was reached “with the club’s best interests at the centre of our decision”.

During the Test in Cape Town last weekend, Bancroft was caught by TV cameras rubbing the ball with sandpaper. It emerged the conspiracy was Warner’s idea and involved the “leadership group” which included Smith and Bancroft.

Smith and Warner have been banned from international and domestic cricket for 12 months by Cricket Australia, while Bancroft was hit with a nine-month suspension for his role.

The International Cricket Council announced a review into the strength of its own available sanctions, having imposed a one-match ban and 100 per cent match fee fine on Smith. Bancroft was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and handed three demerit points.

ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said the review has been launched following “one of the worst periods in recent memory for consistently poor player behaviour and the global outcry in relation to the ball tampering is a clear message to cricket: enough is enough”.

Smith, speaking after arriving in Sydney, said he took “full responsibility” for a “serious error of judgement”, but stressed the incident in Cape Town was the first time Australia had ball-tampered during his tenure.

The 28-year-old said: “I’ll do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it’s caused.

“If any good can come of this, if there can be a lesson to others, then I hope I can be a force for change.”

Smith added: “I know I’ll regret this for the rest of my life, I’m absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness.”

The cricketer choked up as he tried to explain what message he would send to children that follow the sport and then broke down again as he tried to put into words the impact his actions had had on his parents.

Smith concluded his press conference by saying: “I just want to say I’m sorry for the pain that I guess I’ve brought to Australia and the fans and the public. It’s devastating and I’m truly sorry.”

Bancroft, meanwhile, admitted he felt like he had “let everyone down in Australia”.

He said: “People know that I’ve worked so hard to get this opportunity in my career and I’ve given someone else an opportunity for free. I’m going to work so hard to get back this dream I’ve had since I was a kid of playing for Australia.”

Warner opted to make his apology in a brief post on Twitter, saying: “Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket. I apologise for my part and take responsibility for it. I understand the distress this has caused the sport and its fans. It’s a stain on the game we all love and I have loved since I was a boy.”

The fallout from the scandal continues, with wealth management company Magellan pulling out of a sponsorship deal with Cricket Australia, while Smith has lost his endorsement deal with Australian breakfast cereal Weet-Bix and sports equipment manufacturer Asics announced it had terminated sponsorship contracts with Warner and Bancroft.

Warner and Smith have also been banned from taking part in this year’s Indian Premier League.

The Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) said there were a number of “glaring and clear anomalies” in the process leading up to the bans for Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

Press Association Sport understands the England and Wales Cricket Board is seeking clarification from Cricket Australia over whether the ban is reciprocal. That could mean all three men involved being ineligible to feature in English domestic competitions.

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