Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft is due to return to professional cricket after serving a nine-month ban for his part in a ball-tampering scandal.
The 26-year-old’s ban from international and domestic cricket expired on December 29 and he is available to line up for the Perth Scorchers in their Big Bash League clash against the Hobart Hurricanes on Sunday.
Bancroft was sanctioned, alongside captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner, after he attempted to alter the condition of the ball with sandpaper against South Africa in Cape Town in March.
Smith spoke of a “leadership group” making the decision to tamper with the ball and, in announcing the severe punishments, Cricket Australia revealed 32-year-old Warner was charged with devising the plan, instructing a junior player – Bancroft – to carry it out and even demonstrating how to do it.
Bancroft, who averaged 48.5 across five matches in last year’s BBL, was due to be Somerset’s overseas player for the 2018 summer but the club reversed the decision in light of the incident.
The right-handed batsman – unlike Smith and Warner – has appeared to shirk the limelight since the South Africa Test and the fallout, and has not played in any high-profile Twenty20 leagues unlike his compatriots.
He lined up for the Desert Blaze in the Strike League in Australia’s Northern Territory during the ‘winter’ months of July and August, caught for one in his first innings, and posted a top score of 78 during the tournament.
Bancroft’s return to grade cricket was also without much fanfare. Opening for Wiletton in Western Australia against Midland-Guildford in October, he scored four before holing out.
Only a “handful of spectators” were present at the game, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Across the six games since, Bancroft has notched up 413 runs and top scored with 154, streets ahead of Aaron Hardie (211) in the WACA 1st Grade.
Smith and Warner – both banned until March 29 next year – have also played grade cricket on the other side of Australia in New South Wales.
The former Test captain and vice-captain were denied big pay days from the Indian Premier League following the bans – Cricket Australia reported both had £1.9million contracts for the Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad respectively.
Instead, the pair plied their trade in Canada at the inaugural Global T20 with Smith turning out for the Toronto Nationals and Warner the Winnipeg Hawks.
Smith returned to grade cricket in Australia in late September, scoring 85 which has been his highest total across eight innings in New South Wales.
Warner has been in more prolific form, averaging 75 across seven games for Randwick Petersham with a top score of 157.
The BBL finishes in February, so both Smith and Warner will miss the season after CA decided not to alter the sanctions of the three men last month.