Briefing | opinion

Sandpaper. They used sandpaper

Photo by Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images / Getty ImagesCameron Bancroft (L) and Australian captain Steve Smith speaking to the media after the event.

This is the twisting of the knife.

With the reputation of Australian cricket already in tatters, and three brilliant players now banned from the game for nine months to a year, it turns out the initial claim that “sticky tape” from kit bags was used to try and rough up the ball during the third Test against South Africa was a lie.

Sandpaper. It was sandpaper.

If they thought saying it was tape made it sound more like it was done on a whim, they were right.

The use of sandpaper makes it all the more insidious.

Cricket Australia charged Dave Warner with instructing Cameron Bancroft to “carry out a plan to take steps to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper”.

More on that in a moment.

Rewinding to last Sunday morning: here’s a reminder of what an ashen-faced Bancroft told the media after he was sprung putting some yellow material into his pants with the cameras trained on him (emphasis added):

Bancroft: [I’ve just] had discussions with the match officals and I’ve been charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball. We had a discussion during the break and on myself I saw an opportunity to potentially use some tape, get some granules from the rough patches on the wicket and try to, I guess, change the ball condition. It didn’t work, the umpires obviously didn’t change the ball, but I guess once I was sighted on the screens and having done that, I panicked quite a lot. That obviously resulted in me shoving it down my trousers.

Reporter: It was tape, was it?

Bancroft: Yeah, so we had this yellow tape in our kit and it’s connected to some padding, but the actual sticky stuff itself, yeah, it’s very sticky. I felt like it could be used to collect some stuff from the side of the pitch.

Part of the shock of this whole episode was the initial admission than there was a conspiracy between senior players.

The revelation that it was so pre-meditated was what made it so repugnant.

But now it looks even less like it was a spur-of-the-moment improvisation.

(A quick recap on ball-tampering in cricket, as the question has come up so often this week: getting one side of the ball really rough while the other side is shiny alters the air flow around the ball after it’s bowled, meaning it can suddenly move unpredictably on the batsman.)

Back to Warner, who was charged with, among other things:

(a) development of a plan to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball;

(b) instruction to a junior player to carry out a plan to take steps to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper;

(c) provision of advice to a junior player regarding how a ball could be artificially altered including demonstrating how it could be done.

And then there’s Bancroft, a relative newcomer to the side, whose charges include the stinging addendum: “misleading public comments regarding the nature, extent, implementation and participants of the plan”.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.

It was sandpaper.

This post has been updated to reflect that cricketers sometimes carry sandpaper in their kit bags — for bats.

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