Australia bowling coach David Saker said Saturday that the ball-tampering scandal had been a factor in a disastrous day for the tourists in the fourth Test against South Africa and admitted "the dressing room is hurting".
Australia were reeling at 110 for six at the end of the second day in reply to South Africa’s imposing first innings total of 488.
The collapse started when three replacement batsmen made only 12 runs between them following the banning of captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
“Putting three guys into a Test match, two have come from Australia and one hasn’t played in a game for a while, was always going to be a little bit tough,” said Saker.
He paid tribute to the quality of South Africa’s bowling but added: “Obviously after the week we’ve had there’s a lot of disappointment in the room that we can’t put something together.
“We’re not thinking too much about what’s happening at home but we’re thinking about people who were part of our team that we’ve lost. That’s hurting a lot of people in the dressing room.
"That’s something that’s hard to get over. We’re not making excuses but it’s obviously a factor in the way we’re playing this game.”
Opening batsmen Joe Burns and Matt Renshaw were out for four and eight respectively while Peter Handscomb was out first ball for nought to leave Australia 38 for three.
“We’ve tried to really care for each other this week,” said Saker. “We’re realists and we’re going to go out and try and play as well as we can, to put in a performance that the Australian public and our group are proud of.
"So far it hasn’t happened but the effort has been there. There’s no doubt in the dressing room that the guys are trying their hardest. It just hasn’t worked in this game.”
Saker admitted South Africa had batted better than the Australians.
“That’s been a little bit of the story of the series so far. We didn’t leave the ball and the opposition left the ball extremely well.”
Temba Bavuma made 95 not out after he and Quinton de Kock fought their way through a testing early period against a ball that was almost new in gloomy conditions.
“Generally at the Wanderers in the morning it’s quite hard for the batters to score,” said Bavuma.
“The wicket is still soft so the ball generally nips and swings a bit more. I was just moving with the belief that later on it would get easier and the bowlers would get tired and I would get opportunities to score.”
Bavuma said the Australians, also missing the injured fast bowler Mitchell Starc, had bowled well.
“I had to respect that. My confidence and comfort came from knowing that I’d be able to score my runs later on.”
South Africa, leading the series 2-1, need only to draw to beat Australia in a home series for the first time since 1969/70.
Bavuma was within sight of his second Test century, when Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins took two wickets with successive balls to finish off the innings.
Cummins was easily Australia’s most impressive bowler, finishing with five for 83.
“He deserved that,” said Saker. “He’s bowled some spells this series that have been as good as any bowler has bowled for Australia.
"He’s backed it up now for more than 12 months and he’s now trusting his body. He’s got through some really good overs and bowling at good pace.”