AUSTRALIAN captain Steve Smith and teammate Cameron Bancroft sensationally admitted to ball-tampering during the third Test against South Africa on Saturday, plunging cricket into potentially its greatest crisis.

Bancroft was caught on television cameras appearing to rub a yellow object on the ball, and later said: "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I want to be here (in the press conference) because I want to be accountable for my actions."

Smith is now facing calls for his resignation after admitting that Bancroft did not act alone.

"The leadership group knew about it," Smith said. "We spoke about it at lunch. I'm not proud of what happened. It's not in the spirit of the game."

Cameron Bancroft talks to the umpire on the third day. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)
Cameron Bancroft talks to the umpire on the third day. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)

However, Smith insisted he would not resign. "I still think I'm the right person for the job," said the 28-year-old. "Obviously today was a big mistake on my behalf and the leadership group's behalf as well, but I take responsibility. I need to take control of the ship. This is something I'm not proud of."

Television footage showed Bancroft, 25, take a yellow object out of his pocket while fielding in the post-lunch session on the third day of the Test at Newlands.

He was spoken to by umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth after appearing to have the object in his hand after fielding the ball at cover.

While the umpires were conferring, Bancroft then appeared to place the small yellow object in his underpants.

When the umpires went across to talk to him he reached into a pocket and showed them what looked like a soft pouch for sunglasses.

The umpires took no action and did not change the ball. "I was sighted on the screen and that resulted in me shoving it down my trousers. I panicked quite a lot," said Bancroft.

There were boos from a capacity crowd at Newlands when the incident was shown on the big screen.

Bancroft said he had met with the match officials after play and faced a charge of attempting to change the condition of the ball.

There was no immediate confirmation from the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Both Bancroft and Smith, who took over the Australian captaincy in 2015, appeared before the media after the match and admitted that they had attempted to change the condition of the ball.

"We had a discussion during the break. On myself I saw an opportunity to use some yellow tape and the granules from the rough patches of the wicket to change the condition of the ball," said opening batsman Bancroft who is playing in his eighth Test.

"It didn't work, the umpires didn't change the ball."

Smith insisted that coach Darren Lehmann was not part of the conspiracy even though footage appeared to show the coach sending a message onto the field with twelfth man Peter Handscomb after the first footage of the incident.

"The coach isn't involved. It was purely the leadership group and the players came up with this," added the captain who is playing in the 64th Test of a career which has yielded more than 6000 runs.

"We saw this as such an important game. We've obviously seen the ball reversing quite a lot throughout this series and the ball just didn't look like it was going to go. That's a mistake on our behalf."

The four-match series is locked at 1-1 and South Africa finished the third day in a strong position, 294 runs ahead with five wickets in hand.

Asked whether Australia had used similar methods in previous matches, notably in the first Test in Durban, where Mitchell Starc achieved prodigious reverse swing, Smith said: "You can ask questions as much as you like but I can promise you this is the first time it has happened. I've made it clear it is regrettable and we move on from this and hopefully will learn something from this."

The scandal provoked widespread condemnation by former players. "This was a premeditated move by the Australian captain to cheat," said former England skipper Nasser Hussain.

Australian leg-spin legend Shane Warne added: "I feel a bit for Cameron Bancroft because I don't think he's taken it upon himself to do something and put it in his pocket."

Michael Vaughan, another former England captain, said all of the Australian team and coaches would forever be remembered as cheats.

"Steve Smith, his Team & ALL the management will have to accept that whatever happens in their careers they will all be known for trying to CHEAT the game," tweeted Vaughan.

- AAP

News Corp Australia

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