Captain Steve Smith should be sacked from the most revered job in Australian sport.

His admission that he was part of a plot to deliberately cheat while in the field against South Africa at Cape Town sits among Australia's darkest days in cricket.

And there's been a few, with the underarm delivery against New Zealand in Melbourne in 1980-81 top of the heap.

But don't bet on it happening. Smith is a towering figure in Australian cricket, arguably the world's best batsman and dumping him would most likely be a step too far for the game's bosses in that country to take.

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He looked a sick puppy facing up to the cameras after the day, as he should. Captains are supposed to be above this behaviour. However let's get real: Smith is not the first to take a bounding leap across the line of acceptable form.

But for all the shock and horror which greeted Trevor Chappell's low ball at Melbourne it was legal.

Australia always talk with pride of how they play the game hard and aggressively but staying inside some fluid line of what is okay.

But this is different. The laws of the game state that the captains are largely responsible for ensuring fair play. Smith didn't tweak that notion, he bashed the door down.

To Smith's credit, and that of tampering ring-in Cam Bancroft, who volunteered to use the adhesive tape on the ball to help rough it up as things were going wrong in the field, they have owned up.

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Then again, they could scarcely do anything else frankly.

Even so they wouldn't be the first cricketers to have done wrong and put up the lame, and often ludicrous, "not us pal" defence.

Cameron Bancroft of Australia on the pitch during the third day of the third cricket test between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Stadium, in Cape Town. Photo / AP
Cameron Bancroft of Australia on the pitch during the third day of the third cricket test between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Stadium, in Cape Town. Photo / AP

It doesn't make the situation any better and the pair clearly knew they were going to be bang to rights once the film of the incident came out.

Interference with the condition of the ball is a big no-no in cricket. The players know that.

The reason their actions, as well as devious and illegal, were plain stupid is that they should have been aware that with the number of cameras at international matches these days, the likelihood of the incident going unnoticed was damn near zero.

"The leadership knew about it, we spoke about it at lunch. I'm not proud of what's happened, it's not within the spirit of the game," Smith said. "My integrity, the team's integrity, the leadership group's integrity has come into question and rightfully so. It's certainly not on and it won't happen again, I can promise you that under my leadership.


Smith wouldn't dob in the other members of Australia's leadership group, but it is curious that the relative newcomer Bancroft did the handiwork rather than a more senior player in the team.

Smith has also excluded team management from any involvement in the plot. However that is a stretch. For example, very little happens in ways of strategy and planning in a dressing room without the coach's knowledge.

Smith admitted he was embarrassed, as he should.

"I'm incredibly sorry for trying to bring the game into disrepute the way we did today."

With his own words, Smith, and Bancroft, who has already been charged by the International Cricket Council referee Andy Pycroft with ball tampering, have marked their own cards.

Australia are 294 runs behind South Africa, who have five wickets remaining with two days left in the test in a series loaded with controversial moments.

Kagiso Rabada, David Warner and Nathan Lyon have all misbehaved and, certainly in the case of the first two, should have been far more harshly punished for their transgressions.

But the ICC have form for flaccid reactions when a firm hand is needed. Still whatever else happens in their careers - and Smith has much to reflect proudly on - he and Bancroft will forever be remembered as the faces of one of Australian cricket's grubbiest days.

Cheats, plain and simple.