Australia ball-tampering: Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Starc and Nathan Lyon deny knowledge of sandpaper plan

Australia bowlers Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon have reiterated they knew nothing about a plan to tamper with the ball using sandpaper during a 2018 Test match against South Africa in Cape Town.

The incident, which plunged Australian cricket into crisis with the suspension of former captain Steve Smith, deputy David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft, is back under scrutiny after the latter appeared to hint the bowlers may have been aware of the plans.

Speaking to The Guardian over the weekend, Bancroft was asked directly if the bowlers knew about his actions and twice said the answer was “pretty self-explanatory”. Cricket Australia has formally contacted Bancroft seeking new information about the incident.

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No other team members were found to be complicit during an initial investigation, including the bowlers who would have benefited from the changed condition of the ball.

In a joint-letter addressed to the Australian public, the bowlers said: “We pride ourselves on our honesty. So it’s been disappointing to see that our integrity has been questioned by some journalists and past players in recent days in regard to the Cape Town Test of 2018.

“We have already answered questions many times on this issue, but we feel compelled to put the key facts on the record again.

“We did not know a foreign substance was taken onto the field to alter the condition of the ball until we saw the images on the big screen at Newlands.

“And to those who, despite the absence of evidence, insist that ‘we must have known’ about the use of a foreign substance simply because we are bowlers, we say this: The umpires during that Test match, Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth, both very respected and experienced umpires, inspected the ball after the images surfaced on the TV coverage and did not change it because there was no sign of damage.

“None of this excuses what happened on the field that day at Newlands. It was wrong and it should never have happened.

“We’ve all learned valuable lessons and we’d like to think the public can see a change for the better in terms of the way we play, the way we behave and respect the game. Our commitment to improving as people and players will continue.

“We respectfully request an end to the rumour-mongering and innuendo. It has gone on too long and it is time to move on.”

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