Australia ball-tampering row: The key questions facing Australian cricket

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Australian cricket is mired in the biggest scandal to hit the Test game since three Pakistan players were caught spot-fixing at Lord's in 2010.



The pictures from the third day of the third Test against South Africa of Cameron Bancroft rubbing what we were later told was yellow tape against the ball and then hiding it down the front of his trousers were only outdone on the scale of extraordinary by the news conference that followed.


Bancroft and then captain Steve Smith came clean. It was a premeditated and calculated plan to alter the condition of the ball.


There is a debate to be had on the severity of ball-tampering as a cricketing crime. It is nothing new for bowlers and fielders to attempt to conjure something from the leather by fair means or foul.


That, though, is for another day. Right now, the ferocity of the backlash against Smith, his team and its management has left a number of Australian cricketing giants fighting for their jobs and the governing body of the sport down under wondering how to repair its shattered reputation.


Who was involved in the ball-tampering plot?

From what has happened so far, we know Smith, vice-captain David Warner and Bancroft are conspirators. But how many other players are in the "leadership group" referred to by Smith? Was substitute fielder Peter Handscomb, seen on a walkie-talkie and then passing a message to Bancroft, also in on the plot?


There are also questions around coach Darren Lehmann. Smith said only players were involved, but is that to be believed? If not, and Lehmann genuinely didn't know, why not? Is it worse to be in on the plan, or to be so out of control that you are unaware your team is about to do something so brazenly stupid, damaging and beyond the laws of the game? His future is also on the line.


Former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie told Sky Sports: "Until we've heard from Lehmann, we won't know any more. He hasn't fronted the media yet - everyone is waiting for that.


"It's hard to think there isn't going to be a fall-out and a big change in personnel. It appears there's going to be some big changes on and off the field.


"The Australia side has to have a deep reflection on how they go about the game, how they're perceived in the wider cricketing world. That perception isn't good, that's the brutal reality."


In the short term, Australia need a captain for the fourth and final Test following the one-match ban handed to Smith by the International Cricket Council.


It seems unlikely that can be Warner who, like Smith, was removed from his role for the rest of the third Test by Cricket Australia for being part of the "leadership group" that cooked up the plan.


If there are further bans to be dished out by CA, how would that affect the match in Johannesburg, which is due to begin on Friday? Might the majority of a new squad have to be scrambled to South Africa?


After that, there are decisions to be made on the long-term futures of Smith, Warner and any other players or coaches involved.



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