Australia’s Cameron Bancroft has admitted he tampered with the ball during the third Test against South Africa – and captain Steve Smith says he knew of the plan in advance.
Television footage showed Bancroft take what he said was yellow tape out of his trouser pocket before rubbing the ball.
The 25-year-old said after play he had been charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball.
Smith said it was a “big mistake” but added he would not stand down.
He said the team’s “leadership group” had spoken about it and “thought it was a way to get an advantage”.
Speaking at a news conference after the day’s play, both players apologised.
“I will deal with the damage that comes to my reputation as a consequence,” Bancroft said. “I don’t think I was coerced. I was nervous about it because there are hundreds of cameras around.
“Unfortunately I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I am accountable for my actions as well. I’m not proud of what has happened.
“Once I was sighted on the big screens, I panicked quite a lot.”
Smith added: “We made a poor choice. We deeply regret our actions. Coaches weren’t involved. It was purely the players in the leadership group.
“I can promise you it won’t happen again. It’s the first time this has happened.
“We will move on from this and hopefully learn something from it. I’m embarrassed. I feel for Cam. It’s not what the Australian cricket team is about. I am incredibly sorry for trying to bring the game into disrepute.”
After footage of the incident was broadcast, Bancroft put the tape down the front of his trousers before being spoken to by on-field umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth.
At that point he turned out his pockets, revealing a black cloth.
The umpires did not change the ball, and images of the incident on the big screen resulted in some booing from spectators.
The incident took place as South Africa built up a lead of more than 200 in their second innings against Australia.
Australia legend Shane Warne tweeted he was “very disappointed with the pictures”.
It is the latest incident in a fractious four-match series in which several players have already been sanctioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Earlier in the Test, Australia opener David Warner was confronted by a spectator as he returned to the dressing room after being dismissed.
The tourists’ coach Darren Lehmann later criticised the “disgraceful” verbal abuse directed at his players by the South African crowd, and Cricket Australia sent a letter of complaint to Cricket South Africa.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted Australia’s complaint made him “chuckle”, prompting an exchange with Candice Warner, the wife of the Australian vice-captain.
Following the first Test, Warner and South Africa’s Quinton de Kock were both charged by the ICC after an altercation in a stairwell on the way back to the dressing rooms.
South African pace bowler Kagiso Rabada was banned for two matches after being found guilty of deliberately making contact with Steve Smith in the second Test, but successfully appealed against the decision.