Tim Paine quits as Australia captain on eve of The Ashes amid sexting scandal

Australia Test captain Tim Paine has resigned less than three weeks before the start of The Ashes.

Paine, 36, stepped down over explicit text messages he sent to a female colleague at Cricket Tasmania in 2017, that led to a misconduct investigation at the time.

He said although he was 'exonerated' following the enquiry, he has opted to quit after learning details of the exchange were about to be made public.

Cricket Australia accepted Paine's resignation, but said the keeper-batter will remain in contention for selection, with the opening Test in Brisbane on December 8. Vice-captain Pat Cummins is now expected to lead the side.

In a statement, Paine spoke of a 'difficult' decision, but accepted his actions did not "meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain."

He said: “Nearly four years ago, I was involved in a text exchange with a then-colleague. At the time, the exchange was the subject of a thorough Cricket Australia Integrity Unit investigation, throughout which I fully participated in.

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"That investigation and a Cricket Tasmania HR investigation at the same time found that there had been no breach of the Cricket Australia Code of Conduct. Although exonerated, I deeply regretted this incident at the time, and still do today.

"I recently became aware that this private text exchange was going to become public. On reflection, my actions in 2017 do not meet the standard of an Australian cricket captain, or the wider community. I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and pain that I have caused to my wife, my family, and to the other party."

Paine, who said leading his country had been his "greatest privilege " explained he had not wanted the issue to become a distraction as the Australian squad bid to retain the urn in December and January, but insisted he remained committed to that cause.

“I’m sorry for the damage that this does to the reputation of our sport. And I believe that it is the right decision for me to stand down as captain, effective immediately. I do not want this to become an unwelcome disruption to the team.

“I will remain a committed member of the Australian cricket team, and look forward with anticipation to what is a huge Ashes tour."

Paine took over the captaincy in 2018 when Steve Smith stepped down in disgrace amidst the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Australian cricket.

He led the side to a drawn series in England a year later, a result good enough to retain the Ashes, and won widespread praise for improving the culture that surrounded the national squad.

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