Darren Lehmann has resigned as head coach of Australia's men's team.
Having watched the emotional press conferences of Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft earlier today after the suspended duo returned home to face the media glare following their roles in the ball-tampering scandal, Lehmann said now was the time for a new coach of the national side.
The 48-year-old was yesterday cleared by a Cricket Australia investigation of any wrongdoing in the Cape Town controversy.
The fourth Test at the Wanderers will be his last Test in charge.
Reading from a prepared statement, Lehmann said:
“I just want to let you know this will be by my last Test as head coach of the Australian cricket team as I’m stepping down,” said Lehmann, reading from a prepared statement.
“After seeing events in the media today with Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft, the feeling is that Australian cricket needs to move forward and this is the right thing to do.
“I really felt for Steve, as I saw him crying in front of the media, and all the players are really hurting.
“As I stated before I had no prior knowledge of the incident and do not condone what happened. But good people can make mistakes.
“My family and I have copped a lot of abuse over the last week and it’s taken its toll on them.
“As many who sit in this room will know life on the road means a long time away from our loved ones and after speaking to my family at length over the last few days it’s the right time to step away.
“I’m ultimately responsible for the culture of the team and I’ve been thinking about my position for a while.
“Despite telling media yesterday that I’m not resigning, after viewing Steve and Cameron hurting it’s only fair that I make this decision.
“This will allow Cricket Australia to make a full review into the culture of the team and allow them to implement changes to regain the trust of the Australian public.
“This is the right thing for Australian cricket.
“Like all Australians we are extremely disappointed and as a team we know we’ve let so many people down, and for that we are truly sorry.
“The players involved have been handed down very serious sanctions and they know they must face the consequences. They have made a grave mistake but they are not bad people.
“I would like to thank my beautiful wife Andrea, my four children and close friends for allowing me to do this job and supporting me 100 per cent every step of the way.
“I would also like to thank all the players and support staff who have been fantastic in my five years in the role.
“We’ve had a lot of highs along the way and played some really exciting cricket.
“It’s been a wonderful experience coaching the Australian cricket team.
“I hope the team rebuilds from this and the Australian public find it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the XI that are going to take the field tomorrow.”
Lehmann was installed as head coach just weeks out from the 2013 Ashes series in England after CA sacked South African Mickey Arthur, who oversaw the 'homeworkgate' affair in India, which led to four players being suspended.
While Australia lost the 2013 Ashes series 3-0, players said Lehmann had reunited a fractured group while simultaneously bringing enjoyment back to the Baggy Green, after the squad's culture was deemed to have disintegrated under Arthur's watch.
Throughout that Ashes, the new mentor actually banned the word 'culture' as he looked to reinvigorate the set-up, recalling young batting gun Smith and handing teenager Ashton Agar a shock debut in the opening Test as he looked ahead to a new era.
Five months later, Lehmann's side regained the Ashes with a spectacular five-nil whitewash off the back of an inspired Mitchell Johnson, who repaid the faith of Lehmann and selectors by returning to Test cricket with 37 wickets to utterly dismantle a shocked England.
Lehmann played his part in another significant selection call in South Africa following the Ashes whitewash, when he dropped veteran seamer Peter Siddle for Victorian teammate James Pattinson for the deciding Test in Cape Town, which Australia won in dramatic fashion late on day five to wrest the world No.1 Test ranking from the Proteas.
A failed World T20 campaign and a two-nil hammering at the hands of Pakistan in the UAE were afterthoughts when Lehmann, his charges and the broader cricket world were rocked by the tragic passing of Phillip Hughes in November 2014.
A galvanised unit returned to Test cricket 12 days after Hughes's death, winning an emotional match in Adelaide before going on to defeat India 2-0.
Australia relinquished the 2015 Ashes under Lehmann's watch – continuing an away drought that extends back to 2001 – before a dominant run against New Zealand and West Indies was quickly overshadowed by another away defeat; this time a 0-3 loss to a lowly-rated Sri Lanka outfit.
The Australians' losing streak went to five matches when they surrendered a home series to South Africa, with a devastating result in Hobart – in which the hosts were bowled out for 85 – precipitating mass changes.
Australia then won at home to Pakistan before losing a hard-fought series in India 2-1 – a respectable result against Virat Kohli's team given their recent results on the subcontinent – then drew one-all in Bangladesh last September.
A 4-0 Ashes success this summer has been followed by chaos and controversy in South Africa, which has seen his players banned, fined and abused by local crowds. Ultimately, it will be Lehmann’s last campaign behind the wheel.
“Saying goodbye to the players was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he added, before responding pointedly when asked his proudest moment in charge.
“I would say the way we dealt with Philip Hughes’s passing," he said. “We’re only playing a game.”
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