Town - Australia could go into the fourth Test in Johannesburg with a seriously
depleted side if Cricket Australia's internal investigation into ball-tampering
finds numerous players at fault.
The third Test at Newlands will
go down as one of the darkest moments in Australian cricket history after
captain Steve Smith admitted that he and a number of senior players had
manufactured a plan to tamper with the ball.
Cameron Bancroft, the man tasked
with executing the plan, was caught red-handed on the big screen 20 minutes
before tea on Saturday and after the day's play he joined his skipper in coming
clean in one of the most shocking confessions cricket has ever seen.
As a result, Smith has been
banned by the ICC for the Wanderers Test while the punishment internally from
Cricket Australia could be even worse.
Smith was stood down as captain
at Newlands after the confession, while David Warner was also stripped of the
That suggests that Warner was
also involved in the incident, and if he is punished internally then Australia
could go into the crucial final Test without their two best batsman.
If Bancroft is also sent home,
Australia will go in with three of their top four missing.
The only certainty right now,
though, is that Smith is out.
That, in itself, is a huge boost
to South Africa's chances.
"That is very
comforting," Proteas captain Faf du Plessis said at the thought of not
having to bowl to Smith.
"He is a very good batsman
and somehow we’ve manged to keep him quiet.
"It’s almost like losing two
players in one because he’s such a strong batter. I do believe that his
leadership is also good for the team, so he will be a big loss for them."
2-1 up in the series with one
Test to play, Du Plessis is fully aware of the history-making opportunity that
awaits his side.
South Africa, since re-admission,
have never beaten Australia on home soil.
"It was one of the things we
spoke about it," Du Plessis acknowledged.
"We know it’s our last crack
at it. We’re probably not going to play against Australia again, even away, so
this is the Test series that we as South Africans enjoy the most.
"We’ve worked really hard to
get here and I’m looking forward to the last one. There is still a lot to do
but if we manage to do that it will be great."
The fourth Test starts on Friday.