Former International Cricket Council (ICC) umpire Daryl Harper has revealed Steven Smith and David Warner were involved in a ball-tampering incident when they were representing New South Wales against Victoria in the 2016–17 season of Sheffield Shield.
Smith and Warner have been banned for 12 months, while Cameron Bancroft has been handed a nine-month ban by Cricket Australia from playing domestic and international cricket after the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town came to light.
Bancroft was seen rubbing the ball with a sandpaper on the third day of the third Test between Australia and South Africa. He admitted his wrongdoing, while Smith revealed he was aware of the plan in advance.
Harper revealed he found Smith and Warner tampering the ball while he was the referee for the NSW v Victoria match in November 2016. He even brought it to the notice of New South Wales coach Trent Johnston as the latter's side suffered 198-run loss at Sydney Cricket Ground.
"To be honest, I was not surprised by Steve's assessment. It was in keeping with his demeanor throughout the week. He gave the impression that he wasn't happy to be playing the Sheffield Shield match and failed early in both innings with expansive strokes," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Harper as saying.
"When David Warner repeatedly bounced his returns in to [NSW wicketkeeper] Peter Nevill on the first day, the umpires appealed to Smith to support their calls for fair play. They weren't encouraged by his response."
"I assisted the umpires on the second morning by suggesting to Trent Johnston that CA didn't need an issue with the national captain being involved in a ball-tampering incident."
"This was at the same time that the South African captain [Faf du Plessis] was under scrutiny and before he had been charged.
"As it transpired, there were no further errant throws for the final three days of the game from either team. Steve's participation in the post-match meeting was quite limp, and not as I would expect from our national captain."
Following the ongoing saga, Cricket Australia cleared Australia coach Darren Lehmann of any wrongdoing. Their international investigation has found out the former left-handed batsman was not aware of the incident.
However, Lehmann has announced his decision to step down as the national team's coach. Australia's fourth Test against South Africa in Johannesburg starting March 30 will be his last assignment with the world champions.