Rabada cleared to play third Test vs Australia
Johannesburg: South Africa received a major shot in the arm ahead of the third Test against Australia, starting in Cape Town on Thursday, after paceman Kagiso Rabada's two-match ban for making physical contact with Steve Smith was overturned by the ICC's code of conduct appeal commissioner Michael Heron.
After a hearing via video conference lasting more than six hours on Monday in which Rabada's case was championed by the high-profile South African advocate Dali Mpofu, his level 2 charge for physical contact was downgraded to a level 1 charge for conduct contrary to spirit of the game, with a 25 percent match fee fine and 1 demerit point, instead of the three he had initially been given by match referee Jeff Crowe.
This means Rabada's demerit points total dips below the threshold bringing an automatic ban, allowing him to play at Newlands. Rabada, the captain Faf du Plessis and the team manager Mohammed Moosajee all took part in the hearing.
In his judgement, Heron said that he was not satisfied that Rabada's physical contact with Smith matched the "inappropriate and deliberate" definition covered by the International Cricket Council's code of conduct.
"The key issue is whether Rabada made 'inappropriate and deliberate physical contact' with Smith. I am not 'comfortably satisfied' that Rabada intended to make contact and I therefore find him not guilty of the charge under 2.2.7," he said.
"I am entitled, however, to consider whether the conduct involved constitutes a lower level offence. I consider the conduct was inappropriate, lacked respect for his fellow player and involved non-deliberate and minor contact. The actions contravened the principle that a dismissed batsman should be left alone.
"I consider a penalty of the imposition of a fine of 25 percent of the applicable match fee to be the appropriate penalty for the breach of Article 2.1.1. As a consequence, 1 demerit point accrues. Rabada will be well aware of the consequences of any further breaches of the code," he added.
Reacting to the verdict, ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said: "The ICC wholly accepts today's decision and I would like to thank Heron for overseeing the hearing in a short time frame before the next Test starts in South Africa."
"This is perhaps an opportune moment to remind all players of their responsibilities to maintaining a standard of behaviour which sets a good example to players at all levels of the game, especially the young players.
"We want to see the game played with skill, passion and respect for the opposition, the match officials and the laws," he added.
With the four-match Test series currently locked at 1-1, Rabada's presence in the South African playing XI will only bolster their chances of taking a lead in Cape Town.