Australia captain Steve Smith and batsman Cameron Bancroft have admitted to ball tampering on day three of the third Test in Cape Town.
Bancroft has been charged by match referee Andy Pycroft with a Level 2 offence of attempting to alter the condition of the ball. It is understood the Western Australian has accepted the sanction, with the penalty still unknown.
Possible sanctions include a fine of his match fee anywhere between 50 and 100 per cent, with either three or four demerit points added to his record. Four demerit points would trigger an automatic one-Test ban.
WHAT THE ........ HAVE I JUST WOKEN UP TO. Please tell me this is a bad dream.— Michael Clarke (@MClarke23) March 24, 2018
In the second session on Saturday, Bancroft was captured by television cameras with a yellow object in his hand. He admitted after play that it was a piece of tape with chunks of the pitch on the sticky side, used to rough up the ball in an effort to generate reverse swing.
Having been alerted that the umpires were aware of his actions, Bancroft "panicked" and put the tape down the front of his pants before the standing officials inspected the contents of his pockets.
Smith said senior players devised the plan at the lunch interval without the knowledge of the coaching staff.
"I'm not naming names but the leadership group talked about it and 'Bangers' (Bancroft) was around at the time, Smith said.
"We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage.
"Obviously it didn't work, the umpires didn't see it change the way the ball was behaving or how it looked or anything like that, so it was a poor choice and deeply regrettable."
Smith said he will not step down as captain.
"Obviously, today was a big mistake on my behalf and on the leadership group's behalf as well," Smith told reporters late after play on Saturday.
"But I take responsibility as the captain, I need to take control of the ship, but this is certainly something I'm not proud of and something that I hope I can learn from and come back strong from.
"I am embarrassed to be sitting here talking about this.
"We're in the middle of such a great series and for something like this to overshadow the great cricket that's been played and not have a single cricket question (in this press conference), that's not what I'm about and not what the team's about.
"We'll move past this. It's a big error in judgement but we'll learn from it and move past it."
A visibly distraught Bancroft explained his actions, revealing he had been charged, that he was not pressured into doing it and that he accepts the consequences and will live with the fallout.
"I've just had discussions with the match officials and I have been charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball," Bancroft said.
"We had a discussion during the break and I saw an opportunity to use some tape, get some granules from rough patches on the wicket to change the ball condition. It didn't work, the umpires didn't change the ball.
"Once being sighted on the screen I panicked quite a lot and that resulted in me shoving (the tape) down my trousers.
"We have this yellow tape in our kit and it is connected to some padding but the sticky stuff is very sticky and I felt like it could be used to collect some stuff from the side of the pitch and I have been charged with ball tampering.
Bancroft continued: "I'll be honest with you, I was obviously nervous about it because with hundreds of cameras around that's always the risk, isn't it?
"I sit before you today and I'm not proud of what's happened today.
"I'm not proud of what's happened and I have to live with the consequences and the damage to my own reputation that comes with (it).
"I'll do my best to move forward and play cricket."
When asked whether this was the first time his team had attempted to change the condition of the ball, Smith unequivocally said that it was.
"I can promise you this is the first time it's happened and I think I've made it clear, we're regrettable (sic) and we'll move on from this," Smith said, with the four-match series tied at one-all and South Africa in firm control of the third Test.
"Hopefully we'll learn something from it. I'm embarrassed, I know the boys in the shed are embarrassed as well, and I feel for Cam as well.
"It's not what we want to see in the game, it's not what the Australian cricket team's about, and being the leader of the team I'm incredibly sorry for trying to bring the game into disrepute the way we did today.
"We saw this game as such an important game, not that other games aren't important as well, but an opportunity.
"We've seen the ball reversing quite a lot throughout this series and our ball just didn't look like it was going to go.
"That's a mistake on our behalf again. It's such poor actions and deeply regrettable and certainly won't happen again under my leadership I can promise you."
Full credit to Steve Smith & Cam Bancroft for fronting up and admitting what they tried to do .. I know many teams and individuals who would have gone hiding .. it still doesn’t brush it away but at least they faced the music .. #SAvAUS— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 24, 2018
Smith said even if the tactic had worked and his side had got away with it, he would have regretted the decision to operate outside the laws and the spirit of the game.
"I think deep down I would (regret it)," Smith said.
"It's not what we're about, it's a poor reflection on everyone in that dressing room, particularly the leaders of the group.
"So absolutely, if we weren't caught I'd still feel incredibly bad about it."
Bancroft is now in danger of being suspended for the fourth and final Test in Johannesburg.
If the 24-year-old is hit with the maximum Level 2 penalty, he will be fined 100 per cent of his match fee and handed four demerit points, which would equate to a one-Test ban.
Proteas captain Faf du Plessis was fined his entire match fee and handed three demerit points for changing the condition of a ball with a mint in the Hobart Test in November 2016.
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: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, 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 Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage