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Australian bowlers insist they had no knowledge of Cape Town ball tampering

Australia’s bowling group from the Cape Town Test match in 2018 has responded after comments made by teammate Cameron Bancroft, insisting they had no knowledge of the ball tampering which resulted in bans for Bancroft, David Warner and Steve Smith.

Speaking to the Guardian last week, Bancroft was asked directly if Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan to use sandpaper on the ball during the Cape Town Test against South Africa three years ago and replied that the answer was “pretty probably self-explanatory”.

“Yeah, look, all I wanted to do was to be responsible and accountable for my own actions and part. Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” Bancroft said when pressed.

In a joint statement published on Mitchell Starc’s website on Tuesday and addressed to “the Australian public”, Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon said they had already answered questions many times on the issue but felt compelled to go on the record again.

“We pride ourselves on our honesty,” the bowlers’ statement read. “So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018.

“We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands.

“And to those who, despite the absence of evidence, insist that ‘we must have known’ about the use of a foreign substance simply because we are bowlers, we say this: the umpires during that Test match, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both very respected and experienced umpires, inspected the ball after the images surfaced on the TV coverage and did not change it because there was no sign of damage.”

Bancroft, along with Smith and Warner – who both received year-long suspensions – were the only players punished following a CA investigation into the incident. The former Australia captain Michael Clarke said earlier this week he was sceptical the bowlers did not know anything about it: “Can you imagine that ball being thrown back to the bowler and the bowler not knowing about it? Please.”

Warner’s agent James Erskine told the Age newspaper this week: “The whole thing was so badly handled, it was a joke. But eventually the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, will come out and I know the whole truth.”

Cricket Australia’s integrity unit earlier this week contacted Bancroft, who was caught by broadcast cameras during the third Test match of Australia’s tour of South Africa and banned for nine months for his role in the incident.

CA asked Bancroft to shed more light on the matter but Nick Hockley, the interim chief executive of Cricket Australia, told Australian Associated Press on Tuesday: “He confirmed he has no new information. We can only deal with the facts that we have and there’s nothing further that has been raised. So as far as we’re concerned, that investigation was closed and the sanctions were served.”

The bowling group has always denied any knowledge of the use of sandpaper on the ball.

“None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands,” the bowlers statement continued. “It was wrong and it should never have happened.

“We’ve all learned valuable lessons and we’d like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.

“We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo. It has gone on too long and it is time to move on.”