While raising questions about Australia’s behaviour, Du Plessis freely admits South Africa were also tampering with the ball.
“I’m not mentioning this from atop a high horse. In the past, we have also been found guilty of employing unorthodox methods to get the ball to reverse swing,” du Plessis writes.
“In our team, we just thought, ‘Nah! Ball tampering and reverse swing have always been there.’ In fact, it was probably more prevalent when camera technology wasn’t as good as it is today.
“Personally, I don’t think Steve Smith did much wrong. It’s no secret that all cricket teams want the ball to reverse … We too, have pushed those boundaries.”
For all accusations by both teams about the behaviour of the other in 2018, Paine claimed that no one was ready for what happened on the field in Cape Town.
“Everyone out there was shocked when they looked up on the big screen and saw Cameron Bancroft with a piece
of sandpaper in his hand,” Paine wrote. “I was stunned. We all were.
“I can let you in on the fact that over my years in the game I’d heard talk about guys taping small pieces of sandpaper onto their fingers, but this was next level. It was a Test match and it was on the big screen and it looked terrible.
“My heart sank, I was thinking, ‘What the f—?’ A sense of dread came over us all.”
The Australians had already been strongly criticised for their behaviour from the outset of an ugly Test series.
Du Plessis makes no bones about it in his book, saying “we were going to force-feed the visitors some of their own medicine … let the bullies be bullied”.
After his unexpected recall to the Test side for the Ashes earlier that summer, Paine was shocked at the level of on-field acrimony.
“I found that to be a really intense series in terms of the verbals out on the ground,” he recalled. “Obviously, Test cricket is competitive, but I thought that series was getting close [to the edge] and the warning signs were there that it was getting a touch too aggressive.
“Faf says in his book they would try and bully the bullies, and what you saw there was them trying to fight fire with fire, and it just tipped over the edge in a number of ways. And sandpaper, obviously, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I suspect nobody will ever be satisfied they know the full story of how we got to this place. I’m not sure I even understand [it] myself.
“There were a lot of things going on in that series that, looking back, weren’t in the right spirit of the game. And I think if we had our time again, we’d probably pull back on some of that stuff. I think both teams would, in terms of how we were sort of going at each other and the animosity between the two groups.
“It was absolutely competitive and a win-at-all-costs mentality … it went too far.”
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