Rabada handed two-Test suspension
Kagiso Rabada will not play any further part in the ongoing series against Australia after he was found guilty of a level 2 code of conduct offence. The incident took place on Friday when the South African fast bowler made physical contact with outgoing batsman Steven Smith.
Rabada received three demerit points, taking his total to eight within 24 months. According to the ICC's rules, that activates a suspension of two Test matches.
CSA and Rabada have 48 hours to decide whether to will appeal the decision and are seeking legal counsel to that end. Should they opt to appeal, the ICC then has 48 hours to appoint a judicial commissioner to hear the appeal, which must take place within seven days of the commissioner's appointment. In total, the whole process can take a maximum of 11 days. But the third Test in 10, which should rule Rabada out, even if he appeals successfully.
There is a chance, though, that CSA could present an argument to the judicial commissioner to allow Rabada to play while the appeal is pending. If the commissioner agrees, that could open the door for Rabada to be part of the XI at Newlands.
Rabada was found guilty of a Level 2 ICC code of conduct offence for 'inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with a player,' and fined 50% of his match fee by match referee Jeff Crowe. The 22-year old had come under the scanner in the 52nd over of the Australian first innings, when he trapped Smith lbw. In celebration, Rabada screamed "yes, yes, yes," in Smith's face and then brushed his shoulder as he went through to the slips.
Though Rabada maintained he did not feel any contact at the time, Crowe felt otherwise. "I found that there was contact between Rabada and Smith, and in my judgement the contact by Rabada was inappropriate, and deliberate. He had the opportunity to avoid the contact, and I could not see any evidence to support the argument that the contact was accidental," he said. "It is also disappointing that this has happened the day after the pre-match meeting I had with both teams, where the importance of respect for opponents was highlighted."
The briefing Crowe referred to took place after an incident-filled first Test, after which three players were charged with disciplinary breaches. Nathon Lyon earned a demerit point and was fined 15% of his match fee for a Level 1 offence while David Warner and Quinton de Kock were involved in a stairwell stoush which escalated to unpleasant levels involving personal insults. They were fined 75% and 25% of their match fees respectively with Warner receiving three demerit points and de Kock one.
The nature of the de Kock-Warner spat opened a debate about sledging and Crowe took it upon himself to address the captains and team managers about their behaviour on the eve of the Port Elizabeth Test, where he stressed the need for players to avoid bans.
"The conversation we had with the match referee after the Durban Test - he was telling us that it's important for the rest of the series that we don't just get players out of matches," Faf du Plessis said at the post-match press conference. "Obviously talking about Davey Warner's issue, that he still wanted to keep him in the series. Level three would have been suspension straight away. So I just said I would like the same to apply to KG [Rabada].
"The charge against KG is a level 2 with three demerit points, and the charge against Davey is a level two with three demerit points. For me, if you look at those incidents, one is brushing of the shirt, the other is a lot more aggressive. My question was: why are both these incidents labeled the same? For me they are not. The contact was very minimal, it was a shirt flick of two players and you would get one or two demerit points as a slap on the wrist because it wasn't full body contact. But that's where I'm sitting as a player, not as an official."
The difference lies in the players' track records. Warner had to be physically restrained from de Kock and could have faced a level three charge but it was his first offence under the current demerit points system and so received the lesser sanction. Rabada also only faced a level two charge but was carrying five demerit points into the match. South Africa carried hope that Crowe would not rule Rabada out of the series, but the trend of repeat offences worked against them.
"I take no pleasure in seeing a player suspended, particularly a young player of Kagiso's talent, but he has now breached the ICC Code of Conduct on a number of occasions," Crowe said.
Rabada also admitted guilt in a separate charge - brought against him in the same match - for his send-off of David Warner on Sunday. He had violated clause 2.1.7 of the code of conduct, which relates to "using language, actions or gestures which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batsman upon his or her dismissal" and was a further 15% fine of his match fee. That means he will only take home 35% of the fee for this Test - and an additional demerit point bringing his total to nine. The next threshold for sanctions is 12, which would result in a three-Test ban.
Rabada was not the only one in trouble after the second Test. Australia's Mitchell Marsh accepted a Level 1 charge after violating section 2.1.4 of the code for "using language or gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting during an international match," and was fined 20% of his match fee. Marsh was caught on television saying "f*** you, c***" to Rabada after he was dismissed in the first over of the fourth morning.
While it may be hoped the dust settles during the break, with three code of conduct violations on each side and the series poised at 1-1, tempers may still flare in the next two matches. Both Smith and du Plessis have endorsed an aggressive, engaging style of play but du Plessis called for consistency in applying sanctions and allowance for personality to come through.
"Everyone asks for consistency. One match referee or umpire interprets in another way. For me, if you make it so sensitive, guys will interpret it the wrong way, that's why I think we're just going too far on the sensitive side, because every incident on the cameras it's, 'Did you see that? Did you see that? Did you see that?'" Du Plessis said. "It's Test cricket. We as a team have got no issues with the way the Australian team play their brand of cricket. It's good for the game of Test cricket. People talk about where is the future of Test cricket. This, for me, is an important part of Test cricket - the battles that you face. That is KG running in for 15 overs trying to get someone out and eventually when he gets him out, he has to show that passion. Otherwise you could just put a bowling machine and a robot to bat."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent