JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 17: Justin Langer (coach) and Aaron Finch (captain) of Australia during the Australian national cricket team arrival press conference at Imperial Wanderers Stadium on February 17, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 17: Justin Langer (coach) and Aaron Finch (captain) of Australia during the Australian national cricket team arrival press conference at Imperial Wanderers Stadium on February 17, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Aussies steeled for inevitable backlash

Australia coach Justin Langer believes disgraced David Warner and Steve Smith are ready for a hostile reception from South African supporters when they play in a three-match Twenty20 International series starting in Johannesburg on Saturday morning (3am EST).

The duo were central to the 'Sandpapergate' scandal where, along with batsman Cameron Bancroft, they were found guilty of conspiring to cheat by altering the state of the ball in a test match in Cape Town in March 2018.

Cricket Australia banned Warner and former captain Smith from taking part in domestic and international matches for a year, though they have since made a successful return to the team and remain key figures in the batting line-up.

 

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Langer says the players, and the team, have "moved on" from the scandal, but acknowledges that South African fans might have not.

"There was a brilliant reintegration before they came back into the team," Langer said.

"We have had a great dress rehearsal for South Africa when we toured England (last year). It was a tough tour for those two guys, but we are really proud of the way they let their bat do the talking. We are excited to be back here."

As disastrous as the scandal was for the image of Australian cricket, Langer believes they have come out of it in a healthier space after there had been heavy criticism of the team's on-field behaviour for a number of years before the incident.

"It gave us a chance to regain respect, not only from Australian cricket fans but also from across the world and hopefully we have shown that over the last 18 months," Langer said.

"The guys are in a really good place. We are playing some great cricket and in the right spirit. The boys know I want to keep that up. We have done it for 18 months now and there is absolutely no reason why that won't continue (in South Africa)."

 

Steve Smith at Johannesburg Airport after the lowest point of his career in 2018.
Steve Smith at Johannesburg Airport after the lowest point of his career in 2018.

Captain Aaron Finch echoed those sentiments and said that if anything, a hostile crowd will bring out the best in the players.

"South African fans are very passionate, they are very vocal," he said.

"Our guys are expecting that. David especially loves that banter coming from the crowd and it gets him into the game."

The Twenty20 series against South Africa starts in Johannesburg, before moving to Port Elizabeth and finally Cape Town. The sides will then clash in three ODI matches.