Cricket: Australian bowlers Patrick Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon slam reports they had knowledge of ‘sandpapergate’

Australia's vaunted test-bowling quartet have slammed former peers and media for questioning their integrity.

Patrick Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon have issued a joint response to the fallout from former Australian international Cameron Bancroft's 'sandpapergate' claims in a recent Guardian interview.

Bancroft was front and centre during the infamous 2018 ball-tampering scandal in South Africa that resulted in the suspensions of himself, captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner.

Recalling the incident, in which he was caught with yellow sandpaper scuffing the ball, the right-handed batsman hinted that the bowling group might have known about what was taking place 

"Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that probably is self-explanatory," Bancroft said.

"Look, I think, yeah, I think it's pretty probably self-explanatory," when pressed on if the bowlers were aware. 

"I guess one thing I learnt through the journey and being responsible is that's where the buck stops. 

"Had I had better awareness, I would have made a much better decision."

Cameron Bancroft speaks to umpires Nigel Long and Richard Illingworth during the Newlands test
Cameron Bancroft speaks to umpires Nigel Long and Richard Illingworth during the Newlands test Photo credit: Getty Images

After the interview, the integrity of the bowling foursome was questioned by several former players, including former captain Michael Clarke.

But Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood and Lyons have hit back at the critics, pointing to a "lack of evidence" that they were partly at fault.

"We pride ourselves on our honesty, 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.

"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 the 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.

"None of this excuses what happened on the field that day in 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."

On Monday, Clarke told Sky Sports radio it was unlikely the bowlers did not know about the ball-tampering.

"If you are playing sport at the highest level, you know your tools that good, it's not even funny," he said.

"Can you imagine that ball thrown back to the bowler and the bowler not knowing about it? Please.

"It's not what he [Bancroft] did say as what he didn't say in regards to other people knowing about 'sandpapergate'."