Cricket

Rabada's ban overturned, available for 3rd test

(AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

By GERALD IMRAY

AP Sports Writer

(AP) -- South Africa's Kagiso Rabada had his two-test ban overturned on appeal on Tuesday, meaning the world's No. 1 bowler will be available for the remainder of the series against Australia.

Rabada was banned by the International Cricket Council for the third and fourth tests after being found guilty of two charges of misconduct for inappropriate wicket celebrations in South Africa's series-leveling victory in the second test in Port Elizabeth.

The first charge, of deliberately bumping into Australia captain Steve Smith after getting him out in the first innings in Port Elizabeth, earned Rabada three disciplinary demerit points, took him over a threshold, and resulted in a two-test ban.

The 22-year-old Rabada and Cricket South Africa appealed that finding by arguing that he didn't deliberately bump into Smith. The appeal was upheld after an independent judicial hearing in Cape Town on Monday.

"The key issue is whether Mr. Rabada made `inappropriate and deliberate physical contact' with Mr. Smith," said judicial officer Mike Heron, who heard the appeal. "I am not `comfortably satisfied' that Mr. Rabada intended to make contact and I therefore find him not guilty."

Heron released his ruling on Tuesday, two days before the third test starts.

It was a rare case of a successful appeal against an ICC ruling, and the first time South Africa has succeeded with a legal challenge against cricket's governing body.

Cricket South Africa said it welcomed the decision.

The decision to drop the two-test ban is a major boost for South Africa ahead of the third test in Cape Town starting on Thursday. Rabada won the man-of-the-match award in the second test with 11 wickets and is the spearhead of the home team's bowling attack.

The South Africa-Australia series is level at 1-1 with tests in Cape Town and Johannesburg to come and South Africa seeking a first home series win over archrival Australia since the end of apartheid.

Having cleared him of deliberately bumping into Smith, Heron instead found Rabada guilty of the lower-level offense of "non-deliberate and minor contact" and issued him with a one demerit point penalty and a fine of 25 percent of his match fee. That punishment did not constitute enough demerit points for a ban.

Rabada had already pleaded guilty to a second charge in Port Elizabeth, of shouting in Australia batsman David Warner's face when he got him out. That also didn't constitute enough demerit points for a suspension.

As a successful young black cricketer, Rabada is a sporting role model in post-apartheid South Africa, but his huge talent has been undermined by a series of disciplinary sanctions. He was previously found guilty of inappropriate wicket celebrations on three occasions before this series and served a one-test ban in England last year.

While celebrating Smith's wicket in the second test against Australia, Rabada went down the pitch toward his teammates, bumping shoulders with Smith on the way. The contact was light, but the ICC recently brought in rules to stop any kind of physical contact between bowlers and batsmen in an effort to remove flashpoints in games.

"I consider the conduct was inappropriate, lacked respect for his fellow player and involved non-deliberate and minor contact," Heron said in a statement Tuesday. "The actions contravened the principle that a dismissed batsman should be left alone."

The ICC said it accepted the decision of the independent judicial hearing but also reminded players of their "responsibilities to maintaining a standard of behavior which sets a good example to players at all levels of the game."

This series between South Africa and Australia has been ill-tempered.

Rabada is the fifth player in just two tests to be punished for misconduct. The first test in Durban was also overshadowed by an off-field confrontation between Australia's Warner and South Africa's Quinton de Kock, who were involved in a heated argument on a staircase outside the team dressing rooms. During the argument, Warner had to be physically restrained by teammates and later accused de Kock of making a "vile and disgusting" comment about his wife.

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Gerald Imray is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

Updated March 20, 2018