Banned Test opener Cameron Bancroft has admitted he “lied and panicked” on that fateful day in Cape Town, acknowledging he will now live a lifetime of regret.
Bancroft fronted the press upon his arrival in Perth today after he was sent home by Cricket Australia and banned from international and Australian domestic cricket for nine months for his part in attempting to artificially alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper in the third Test against the Proteas.
The 25-year-old, heartbroken by the events that have unfolded in the past five days, expressed his deep regret for his actions, apologised to the Australian public and fans, and asked for forgiveness as he picks up the pieces of his shattered career.
“I want to say that I am very sorry,” Bancroft said. “I love the game of cricket and playing for my nation and my state, there is no greater pride for me.
“I am extremely disappointed and regret my actions.
"I am sorry to the people who have looked up to me around the world, especially the kids. I know I’m a role model and haven’t acted like one in this instance.
“I understand that I have let people down and I understand the disappointment in the broader community.
“Words don’t mean much in these circumstances, so I will focus on my actions and my conduct going forward.
“Not a second has gone by since last Saturday evening when I haven’t wanted to turn back time and do the right thing in the lunch break.
“It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. It is something I will look to improve on and earn the respect back of the community.
“All I can do in the short term is ask for forgiveness, I hope you can allow it in your hearts to allow me to progress on that journey.
“For now, I will do the best to contribute to the community.”
When asked about why he told reporters after play last Saturday evening that he used sticky tape to rough up the ball, which was later discovered to be sandpaper by CA’s internal investigation into the incident, Bancroft said: “Yes, I lied about the sandpaper and I panicked in that situation, and I’m very sorry.”
The 25-year-old fought back tears as he explained how he had lost that which matters most to him – playing Test cricket for his country.
“Through the last few days and sitting in my own company the thing that breaks my heart the most is the fact I’ve just given up my spot in the team to somebody else for free,” he said.
“People know that I’ve worked so hard to be able to get to this point in my career and to know that I’ve given somebody else an opportunity for free is devastating to me.
“I know it’s going to be a difficult journey back, but the moment I step foot outside this room is the moment I take steps forward to earning that respect back and get back that dream I’ve had as a kid growing up, and that’s playing Test cricket for Australia.”
CA’s investigation found Bancroft had been enlisted by opening partner David Warner during the lunch break on day three of the third Test at Newlands to use sandpaper to rough up one side of the ball to generate reverse swing that has proved so effective this series.
The investigation findings detailed how Warner even demonstrated to Bancroft how to scuff up the ball with the sandpaper.
Bancroft admitted after play that night he was nervous about what he was asked to do by the then vice-captain of the team.
He told the throng of reporters the object used for tampering was sticky tape applied with granules from the pitch, and that when he realised he’d been caught by the broadcast he had dumped the item down the front of trousers, an action that the investigation revealed was upon instruction from Steve Smith.
Bancroft was charged with a Level 3 offence of the CA code of conduct for attempting to artificially alter the condition of the ball, seeking to conceal the evidence and misleading match officials and the public.
He was handed a nine-month ban from CA and is ineligible to hold a leadership role within the Australian cricket team for at least 24 months.
The actions of Bancroft, Smith and Warner have caused outrage across the cricket world, and Bancroft said the reaction has been justified.
“It's so big because you know the action of doing it is completely wrong,” he said.
“For me, to carry out that in front of world cricket, and to be seen breaking the laws of the game, not playing within the spirit of the game, it's completely how cricket shouldn't be played and it completely compromises why we play this amazing game.
“It's going to be a really long road, particularly for myself, it's going to be really difficult to earn that respect back, but I know that for me is the most important thing.”
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.
Australia squad: Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test South Africa won by 322 runs. Scorecard
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage