Rabada’s ban overturned, available for 3rd test

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In this March 9, 2018 file photo South African bowler Kagiso Rabada, second right, celebrates a wicket with team mates during the second test match between South Africa and Australia at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan, File)
In this March 9, 2018 file photo South African bowler Kagiso Rabada, second right, celebrates a wicket with team mates during the second test match between South Africa and Australia at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (AP Photo/Michael Sheehan, File)

Cape Town, South Africa (AP) — South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada had his two-test ban overturned on appeal on Tuesday, meaning he 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 aggressive 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 the two-test ban.

Rabada and Cricket South Africa appealed that finding on the basis 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.

For the Smith incident, Rabada was found guilty on a lesser charge but the punishment did not constitute a ban. He 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 ban.

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. He is ranked the No. 1 bowler in test cricket.

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

Having cleared him of deliberately bumping into Smith, Heron instead found the 22-year-old 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.

While celebrating Smith’s wicket in the second test, 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 presided over by Heron.