Faf du Plessis: It’s just unheard of for a series in South Africa for the ball to go this much. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Faf du Plessis said Thursday the South African team suspected the Australians were involved in illegally manipulating the ball before the Newlands Test.

Three Australian players, including captain Steve Smith, have been banned from the game for between nine and `12 months, after they were caught trying to change the condition of the ball using sandpaper to help it to reverse swing.

“I thought so yes,” Du Plessis said when asked if he thought the Australians may have been using illegal methods to get the ball roughed up even before the Newlands Test match. “In this series the ball has been reversing quite a bit. I’ve never seen so many guys put their hands up to open the batting. 

Normally its green wickets and spicy in the beginning, (but) the biggest challenge in this series is coming in when the ball is tailing around, whether that is at 30 overs or 50,” said the Proteas captain.

“Without having any evidence we thought there was no way that the ball can (reverse swing) so early, it’s just unheard of for a series in South Africa for the ball to go this much.”

Smith and the Australian vice-captain David Warner were banned for 12 months for their part in the scandal while opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was banned for nine months. 

Smith and Bancroft having initially lied to the umpires when first confronted with TV footage at Newlands, also lied about the substance they used to try and scuff up the ball claiming in Cape Town that is was sticky tape used to pick up granules from pitch side. Following an investigation by Cricket Australia’s Integrity Unit, it was found the players used sandpaper.

Warner who initially denied any role in the affair, has subsequently emerged as being its chief architect and suspicion has been directed at the heavy strapping that was on his fingers during the first three Tests.

“We try and get the ball to talk as much as a possible, but we certainly don’t walk around with sandpaper in our pockets,” said Du Plessis.

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During his tearful apology after arriving back in Sydney on Friday, Smith maintained that the Cape Town incident was the only occasion during his tenure as captain that Australia had tried to illegally scuff up the ball.

“It’s harsh for people to judge when they don’t have evidence, I can’t say what I think, without having real evidence, it’s unfair to say, whether it was really, really good skill to try and bounce the ball in the right places, trying to get it roughed up or if someone was working the ball…definitely in this series the ball has reversed quite a bit.

It is a skill, to some extent to get that ball to talk as quick as possible, because a ball going straight versus a ball going late and the other way is obviously a lot harder to face.”

Despite the controversy that has swirled around the game this week, Du Plessis said his players would continue to try and find ways to get the ball to reverse swing in the final Test starting at the Wanderers on Friday.

“From the point of view of the next five days, we are not going to try and stop doing that (getting the ball to reverse) we are going to keep trying to make sure we get the ball to reverse, obviously with what is allowed.”



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