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Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft no longer smiling after ball-tampering incident

Australia claimed victory in the Ashes opener in Brisbane, where Bancroft had struck an unbeaten 82.

The faces were the same as they had been in Brisbane a few months ago, but this time it was no laughing matter when Australian captain Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft fronted up to the media in Cape Town following admissions of ball tampering.

Smith tried to put across his sense of contrition with a ‘from-the-heart’ apology for bringing the game “into disrepute”, vowing “it won’t happen again under my leadership.”

Bancroft, meanwhile, looked like a rabbit caught in headlights as he faced questions of just what was behind him being discovered rubbing a piece of tape, coated with dust from the pitch, on the ball while fielding. Never mind, for that matter, trying to hide the evidence down the front of his trousers.

While at least having the gusto to face such a tough line of questioning, it is a position which, you suspect, neither man would have found comfortable, in fact quite the opposite – and rightly so.

Yet roll the clock back to the end of November 2017, and a press conference at the other end of the spectrum.

Australia had just claimed a 10-wicket victory in the Ashes opener at The Gabba, where Bancroft had struck an unbeaten 82 in the second innings on his Test debut.

Everyone, though, wanted to talk about his run-in with Jonny Bairstow at a Perth bar.

Bancroft gleefully confirmed the Englishman “just greeted me with a headbutt, kind of thing” – much to the amusement of Smith, his captain fighting to hold back fits of schoolboy laughter.

“I’ve actually got the heaviest head in the West Australian squad. There’s an actual measurement for it. So I took the blow quite well and moved on from it. It was a good hit. Play on,” Bancroft continued as the questions kept coming, before Cricket Australia’s media manager decided enough was enough: “I think we’ve clarified it now.”

On Saturday in South Africa, though, there was no shying away from the matter at hand.

Bancroft admitted he had been “obviously nervous” about the whole plan hatched in Cape Town and knew “with hundreds of cameras it’s always a risk”, yet one he took nevertheless.

Smith, meanwhile, has vowed to “take control of the ship”, keep calm and carry on in his job. “It’s a big error in judgement and we’ll learn from it,” he said.

Cricket Australia – and fans all over the world of what the baggy green stands for – will hope that is done sooner rather than later.

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