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Watch: The controversial Justin Langer bail tapping incident that’s been likened to Scuffgate

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner 3 minute read

Australia head coach Justin Langer has explained how a controversial incident from his playing days reminds him of ‘Scuffgate’, with Steve Smith accused of cheating after shadow batting and marking his guard on the final day of the third Australia-India Test.

Langer has vigorously defended the former Australia captain. “Anyone who suggests for one millisecond he was trying to do something untoward, they are way out of line,” he said.

Langer likened it to his actions during Australia’s 2003/04 tour of Sri Lanka. On that occasion, the Australia fielders appealed for hit wicket after Langer had knocked the bails off the stumps as he walked past them, something he says was a subconscious habit which started in his youth.

“I actually spoke to Steve about it the other day,” Langer said. “I reckon I tapped the bail every single time since I was 10 years old. I remember being interviewed a couple of years ago and someone brought it up then about whether I was the right person to lead Australia because of what I did in Sri Lanka all those years ago. I nearly fell off my seat. It was the most innocent thing.

“With Stevey he probably does it every single game or he does it regularly, and that’s the joy of social media I suppose, and people out there making a living from having to make comments as commentators. But I am absolutely 100 per cent that there was zero in [what Smith did], but it did remind me a bit of that. I’m sure Smithy will be very conscious of it now…as I was after that. I probably never touched the top of the bail again.”

Many, including a TV director who was working on the game in question, dispute Langer’s version of the Sri Lanka story, asking why he allowed his teammates to appeal for hit wicket when he knew about his own habit. It took almost two minutes for the TV umpire to find footage of Langer knocking off the bails, in which time the Australian seemingly wasn’t involved with discussions with his fellow Australia players or the umpires.

Langer wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing at the time by ICC match referee Chris Broad, but the on-air commentators felt his actions were “childish”. “Justin was disappointed that the charge was brought and explained his position in a very honest and succinct way,” said Broad.

Perhaps the best solution is to watch footage of the incident yourself and make up your own mind.

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