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“Truly sorry” Lehmann fears for the health of Smith, Warner and Bancroft

Coach hopes trio are forgiven

Australia head coach Darren Lehmann says he fears for the mental health of the three players suspended for ball-tampering and hopes they are forgiven.

Lehmann, cleared of any wrongdoing by Cricket Australia, apologised on behalf of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, insisting their actions were an isolated incident and that they “are not bad people”.

Bancroft was caught tampering with the ball using sandpaper during the third Test defeat to South Africa.

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Cameron Bancroft File Photo

Vice-captain Warner, deemed to be the ringleader, and captain Smith have each been banned from international and domestic cricket for 12 months by Cricket Australia, while Bancroft received a nine-month suspension.

Lehmann, speaking for the first time since Saturday’s controversy in Cape Town, expressed sympathy for the trio.

“They made a grave mistake, but they are not bad people. As a coach I feel for them and their families,” Lehmann told a press conference restricted to Australian media.

“There’s a human side of this, they’ve made a mistake as everyone including myself has made mistakes in the past. These are young men, and I hope people will give them a second chance. Their health and wellbeing is extremely important to us.

“I worry about those three guys immensely, we love all our players and they are going through a really tough time.

“Like all of Australia we are extremely disappointed and as a team we know we have let so many people down – and for that I am truly sorry.

“I’m confident it’s an isolated issue and a grave mistake.”

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Australia Ball Tampering File Photos

Smith and Bancroft gave a press conference after the third day’s play of the third Test, during which they admitted a premeditated attempt to tamper with the ball.

The yellow tape Bancroft was captured on camera rubbing against the ball, and then hiding down the front of his trousers, was in fact sandpaper, CA revealed.

Smith spoke of a “leadership group” making the decision to tamper with the ball and, in announcing the severe punishments, CA revealed Warner, 31, was charged with devising the plan, instructing a junior player – Bancroft – to carry it out and even demonstrating how to do it.

Lehmann had been placed at the centre of the scandal when television footage showed him speaking into a walkie-talkie as the incident was unfolding, seemingly telling 12th man Peter Handscomb to alert Bancroft that he had been spotted doing something dubious on the big screen.

The coach insisted he had no knowledge of the plot and was cleared of any involvement by an investigation led by CA’s head of integrity Iain Roy.

CA chief executive James Sutherland said any further allegations of ball-tampering would be investigated.

“If there are credible allegations to the contrary we have the responsibility to address them, though the investigation thus far is that it does appear to be an isolated incident,” he told a press conference broadcast on Channel 9.

Nevertheless, CA also revealed a review into the culture of the Australian cricket team, brought into sharp focus in the wake of the scandal, will be published in due course.

Batsman Warner, a controversial figure throughout his Test career, will never be considered for a team leadership position in the future, CA added, while Smith and Bancroft will not be considered for such roles until 12 months after their bans end.

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David Warner File Photo

Among the charges Smith, 28, faced was “knowledge of a potential plan to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball”.

Bancroft, 25, Warner’s opening partner and playing in only his eighth Test, was charged with “knowledge of the existence of, and being party to, the plan to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper”, and “carrying out instructions to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball”.

Smith and Warner have also been banned from taking part in this year’s Indian Premier League, although the England and Wales Cricket Board is not taking a view at this stage – Bancroft is Somerset’s overseas player for the coming season.

All three players, sent home from South Africa, will be permitted to play club cricket, to maintain links with the cricket community.

In addition, the trio will be required to undertake 100 hours of voluntary service in community cricket.

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England v Australia – ICC Champions Trophy – Group A – Edgbaston

Matt Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns have been called up as replacements ahead of Friday’s fourth and final Test in Johannesburg.

Tim Paine, who took over from Smith as captain mid-match in Cape Town as the furore began to unfold, was officially appointed captain of the Test team on Tuesday.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan gave his support to Lehmann on Wednesday evening.

Vaughan, now a pundit, wrote on Twitter: “Just seen the @darren_lehmann press conference..Having played with him for 7 yrs at Yorkshire I got to know him very well..now I have heard Sandpaper was involved no way would he had known or agreed to that..he is a decent bloke..I hope he gets chance to redeem himself…”

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