Steven Smith. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/JONATHAN DIMAGGIO
Steven Smith. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/JONATHAN DIMAGGIO

If Ben Stokes thought he got a hard time from fans at the Wanderers‚ things could be even tougher for Steven Smith and David Warner when they hit these shores later in February.

The top-order duo have been included for March’s limited-overs tour of SA. It will be their first outing in SA since their infamous double act during the “sandpapergate” Test at Newlands in March 2018.

Smith‚ who was Test captain at the time‚ conspired with vice-captain Warner and opener Cameron Bancroft to alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper. TV cameras caught them in the act and they were banned by Cricket Australia from international cricket.

The trio returned to cricket at different stages‚ but they made proper high-profile returns during the 2019 World Cup. Warner and Smith featured in the World Cup game in Manchester where the former made 122 while the latter scored seven in a game SA won by 10 runs.

That was in a neutral venue; away from SA’s baying crowds.

Australia will be playing T20s at Newlands and Wanderers‚ grounds where the duo‚ despite their remarkable skills as batsmen‚ will be reminded of their ball-tampering sins.

They were banned for the fourth Test of the 2018 series at the Wanderers where the crowd that agitated Stokes enough to get an expletive out of the flame-haired England all-rounder sorely missed them.

The ODI series will take place at the lesser international centres in Paarl‚ Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom, where the crowds are expected to enjoy the cricket and focus less on the sinners.

Cape Town‚ Johannesburg and even Port Elizabeth are expected to be less forgiving. In that exciting but equally nasty series‚ Smith had a shoulder-brushing incident with Kagiso Rabada in the second Test at St George’s Park. Rabada was suspended for his part and it needed legal intervention for him to play the ill-fated third Test.

The cricket may just be the start‚ but there is plenty that could happen off the field.