Bancroft was caught on the Super Sport cameras dropping the sandpaper down the front of his pants, only after the South African broadcaster had followed Warner – typically the ball manager – earlier in the series when his hand had been heavily bandaged.
The grey area in all of this is how much of this ball management in the past was tampering and went unnoticed.
While Smith was adamant in his media conference after play this was the first time such an incident had happened, Taylor, also a former Australian captain, isn’t so sure.
“There was no probe into finding out how long it had been going on for,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports.
“Was this the first time? There’s no doubt this ‘ball management’ has been going on for a long time, and I dare say every country is either doing it or working out how to do it, but there’s a line somewhere between ball management and ball tampering.
“The grey area in all of this is how much of this ball management in the past was tampering and went unnoticed.”
CA, under former chief executive James Sutherland and former chairman David Peever, did initiate a probe by its then head of integrity Iain Roy, who flew to South Africa but it was restricted to the events of Cape Town, with Warner immediately under the microscope. The report has not been publicly released and why Roy was sent had earlier been a point of debate. No other incidents of ball tampering were investigated by CA, and no other charges have been laid.
In his post-play media conference, Smith said he and the team’s “leadership group” had spoken about the plan “and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage”. However, teammates were quick to distance themselves from any suggestion they had hatched a plan.
CA insiders say the review had limited scope because of the need to settle on the facts and enforce punishment for bringing the game into disrepute before the fourth and final Test began days later in Johannesburg. Under the ICC’s rules, only Smith had been suspended – for one match – for ball tampering.
A CA spokesperson said on Tuesday the governing body was not interested in “hypotheticals”.
“There has been ample opportunity for players to come forward and no one has. We can’t go on hypotheticals. The question we are more interested in is: ‘Is it still happening?’ And we are confident the answer is no,” the spokesperson said.
Taylor’s comments have split opinion in Australian cricket.
Warner and Smith have yet to be publicly questioned as to whether other players knew about the plan.
Test great Ian Healy is convinced this was not the first time Australia had tampered with the ball and said a wider review would have ensured more players were scrutinised.
“They’d certainly been doing it for some time. A lot of them got lucky in an inquiry that was very specific to this incident,” he said.
Ball tampering has long been a dark art of cricket but the brazen plan adopted by the Australians took this to another level. In earlier cases of ball tampering, players have illegally used mints or dirt to shine or scuff the ball in a bid to have it reverse swing while throwing it from the outfield on to the centre square had also been another trick.
“One of the reasons I think Australia fell into trouble in South Africa last year is because they got so fixated on reverse swing,” Taylor said.
“They had three of the finest fast bowlers in world cricket, and 10 overs into a Test in South Africa they’re working on how to manage the ball to get it to reverse.
“They got too carried away with reverse swing and forgot about orthodox, normal swing bowling that’s been around for 140 years.”
Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald