On this day in 2018: Australia ‘sandpapergate’ ball-tampering controversy erupts

The ‘sandpapergate’ ball-tampering controversy erupted on this day in 2018 after Australian Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera cheating.

The opening batter was fielding during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town when he was filmed rubbing the ball with unusual pressure and then hiding a yellow object down his trousers.

There was no doubt he was attempting to alter the surface of the ball and the furore it sparked was immediate and enormous, extending well beyond cricket with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull leading the condemnations.

David Warner and Steve Smith
David Warner and Steve Smith were both banned for their roles in the affair (Mike Egerton/PA)

Bancroft was charged at the end of the day’s play by the match referee but it soon became apparent he had not been acting alone.

Captain Steve Smith admitted to a ball-tampering plot and he, vice-captain David Warner and Bancroft were sent home in disgrace as Cricket Australia launched a swift investigation.

All three players gave tearful press conferences when it emerged the object they were using to rough up the ball was sandpaper and not a piece of tape coated in dust from the pitch, as originally claimed.

The affair was front page news in Australia with Turnbull saying the players’ conduct was “a shocking disappointment” and a “terrible disgrace”.

Malcolm Turnbull
The issue went as high as then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Aaron Chown/PA)

CA, who also viewed the matter as a source of national shame, banned Smith and Warner for 12 months and Bancroft for nine months.

Smith and Bancroft were barred from holding leadership positions for at least two years while Warner, identified as the ringleader, was told he would never be considered for a leadership role again.

Smith and Warner were successfully reintegrated into the side after their suspensions ended but Bancroft has not been selected since returning for two Tests in 2019.