Australia captain Smith banned 1 match for tampering plot

Steven Smith of Australia, center, takes to the field with the team on the fourth day of the third cricket test between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Stadium, in Cape Town, South Africa, Sunday, March 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)
Steven Smith, Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine of Australia, from left, appeal a wicket on the first day of the third cricket test match between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Stadium, in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday, March 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)
Steven Smith of Australia, right, in action on the third day of the third cricket test between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Stadium, in Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday, March 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Australia captain Steve Smith was banned for one match by the International Cricket Council on Sunday for his role in a ball-tampering plot in the ongoing third test in South Africa but Cameron Bancroft, the player who did the tampering, avoided a suspension.

Smith admitted "he was party to a decision to attempt to change the condition of the ball in order to gain an unfair advantage," the ICC said after Smith confessed to hatching a plan, apparently with at least one other unnamed senior player, to cheat in the match against South Africa.

Smith was also fined his entire match fee, cricket's governing body said.

He will now miss the fourth and final test in Johannesburg, where Australia is likely to be up against it and playing to save the series. South Africa was on course to take a 2-1 series lead after assuming a position of control in the third game in Cape Town on Sunday.

Newcomer Bancroft, who was tasked by the Australia team's "leadership group" to do the cheating, according to Smith, was given three disciplinary demerit points but that was not enough for a ban.

"I acknowledge that Cameron has accepted responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to the charge and apologizing publicly," said match referee Andy Pycroft, hinting at the reason why Bancroft did not receive a harsher punishment. "As a young player starting out in international cricket, I hope the lessons learned from this episode will strongly influence the way he plays the game during the rest of his career."

Smith and Bancroft confessed on Saturday to a plan to try and cheat against South Africa by tampering with the ball using a piece of yellow adhesive tape and some dirt in order to get the ball to swing.

Although Smith confessed the plan was hatched by the Australia team's "leadership group," he refused to name any other players involved and the ICC didn't announce action against anyone else in its ruling on Sunday.

That appeared to let pugnacious Australia opening batsman and vice-captain David Warner, in trouble already in this series for an off-field confrontation with a South African player, off the hook.

Warner, as the team vice-captain, was likely part of the leadership group Smith referred to during his admission. Smith and Warner stepped down from their team leadership duties for the rest of the third test in Cape Town under pressure from Australia's cricket body.

Wicketkeeper Tim Paine took over as the stand-in Australia captain.

ICC chief executive David Richardson also commented on the case, which involved the sixth and seventh players to be hauled into ICC disciplinary hearings in just three tests this series.

"The decision made by the leadership group of the Australian team to act in this way is clearly contrary to the spirit of the game, risks causing significant damage to the integrity of the match, the players and the sport itself and is therefore 'serious' in nature," Richardson said. "As captain, Steve Smith must take full responsibility for the actions of his players and it is appropriate that he be suspended.

"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 behavior."

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