Steve Smith escaped with a slap on the wrist by the ICC for his role in the ball-tampering scandal — but it could get much worse for the Australian captain and his vice-captain David Warner.

The ICC suspended Smith for the fourth Test and fined him 100 per cent of his match fee for conduct contrary to the spirit of the game as he and Warner stepped down from their leadership duties on the final day in Cape Town.

Cameron Bancroft, who carried out the incident, was handed three demerit points and also fined 75 per cent of his match fee for ball tampering.

But a Cricket Australia investigation into the incident could have far more serious consequences.

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CA's Head of Integrity Iain Roy and team performance manager Pat Howard travelled to South Africa to begin interviews with Smith, Warner, Bancroft and coach Darren Lehmann.

Roy will then decide how players are charged under CA's code of behaviour.

According to ESPN Cricinfo, if Roy hands down a charge of conduct contrary to the spirit of the game, an independent commissioner would then be brought in to give a ruling.

The maximum penalty available is a life ban.

The ICC ruling for Bancroft means he'll be free to take part in the fourth and final Test of the series, pending Cricket Australia's investigation.

According to the ICC rule books, ball tampering is a level 2 offence and carries up to four demerit points (automatic one match suspension) and up to 100 per cent match fee fine.

There was widespread condemnation for the soft ICC decision.