The four bowlers in the middle of the reignited sandpaper conspiracy have defended themselves against suggestions by Cameron Bancroft, who was suspended for ball tampering at the time, that they were aware of the subterfuge.

Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood released a joint statement at 5pm on Tuesday addressed to the Australian public.

"We pride ourselves on our honesty," it reads. "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.

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"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.

Australia's Cape Town bowling attack has released a statement. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Australia's Cape Town bowling attack has released a statement. Picture: Phil Hillyard

"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."

"Regards, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon"

Past players Adam Gilchrist and Michael Clarke this week questioned the inquiry that found only Bancroft and David Warner were part of the conspiracy while Steve Smith was guilty of turning a blind eye at the time.

Clarke, the former captain, was particularly scathing of the suggestion a bowler would not know it was going on.

 

 

However, as the bowlers claim, there was no significant damage to the ball at the time and it was not changed by the umpires.

Other players have confirmed to The Australian that the first they knew of sandpaper being used on the field was, as the bowlers claim, when they saw Bancroft on the screen at Newlands.

Cricket Australia said on Tuesday that Bancroft's allegation bowlers knew about the ball tampering does not affect Cummins chances of becoming the next Australian Test captain.

"Nothing changes," acting chief executive Nick Hockley said.

The cricket boss said that the revelation in an interview on the weekend would go no further after Bancroft said he had no new evidence to add to what he told investigators at the time.

Ian Gould who was one of the officials at the Test in Cape Town wrote in his recent book that Bancroft had slipped out of the change rooms without telling anybody to apologise to the umpires for lying on the ground about the sandpaper.

Gould revealed the balls from the game in Cape Town are locked in a bank vault in England.

The transcripts from the inquiry at the time are locked away at Cricket Australia and have only been seen by a handful of people.

Bancroft was asked if he had new information, but told the current integrity department he had said he had nothing to add to what he told the investigator, Iain Roy, at the time.

"Our integrity unit reached out to him and he has confirmed he has no new information beyond the investigation that was conducted," Hockley said.

The acting chief executive said he had not looked at the transcripts of the interview.

Hockley dismissed suggestions that the bowling group is now living under a shadow because of Bancroft's allegation.

"An investigation was done at the time, we obviously read the media article (with Bancroft) and that caused our integrity unit to reach out Cam specifically to ask him if he had any new information which he has confirmed that he doesn't," the chief executive said.

What remains unclear is what Bancroft told investigators at the time.

"There was a thorough investigation done there were sanctions imposed ad there was time served, we could only go on the information that we have," Hockley said. "We've said publicly if anyone has any new information then they should come forward."