Kagiso Rabada has been reported with a Level 2 code of conduct breach by the standing umpires after his brush with Steve Smith on day one and now faces being suspended for the rest of the series.
But Rabada is appealing the charge and will have a hearing with match referee Jeff Crowe tonight in Port Elizabeth to contest the intention of his actions.
The 22-year-old will argue he did not intentionally mean to come in contact with Smith, hoping for a downgraded charge that would see him escape suspension.
After taking the wicket of Smith lbw for 25 after lunch, Rabada brushed shoulders with the batsman as he moved to celebrate with his jubilant teammates who were stationed behind the wicket.
The contact drew an immediate response from Smith, who wheeled around to look at Rabada before consulting with non-striker Shaun Marsh about reviewing his dismissal.
While the moment might seem minor on the surface, Rabada has five demerit points on his disciplinary record and the brush with Smith could take him to eight and a two-Test suspension.
A Level 2 breach of the ICC code of conduct brings with it a maximum of a 100 per cent match fee fine and between 3-4 demerit points, which if imposed would men Rabada would be ruled out of the remainder of the Test series.
The brush with Smith was after the first of a five-wicket burst from the right-armer, who captured 5-13 in 18 balls to rip the heart out of the Australia middle order either side of tea at St George’s Park.
Should Rabada, who has the best strike-rate (39.7) of any bowler with at least 100 wickets in the past 122 years, be rubbed out, new-ball partner Vernon Philander says he would leave a “massive hole” in the Proteas XI.
“He’s a big part of this bowling line-up,” Philander said. “Let’s hope that’s not the case and we’ll have a four-pronged attack come Cape Town.”
Former Proteas captain Graeme Smith says Rabada’s actions were “silly” given the potential threat of suspension that hangs over his head.
“It’s a difficult one,” Smith told cricket.com.au in Port Elizabeth. “Obviously, we know any kind of physical contact is not on in the game.
“It looked like they were walking in the same direction.
“From a series perspective, you hope he doesn’t get a ban, you want to see the best players playing against the best players but it is silly.”
Prior to the series, Steve Smith flagged the Aussies would potentially look to target Rabada given his precarious disciplinary record.
“It could perhaps be a plan to try and get him fired up,” he told cricket.com.au last month in Johannesburg.
“You never know what some guys do when they’re fired up.
“He’s obviously a quality bowler and a big player for them.
“You don’t want to see guys getting suspended or anything like that, you want to come up against the best, but you never know.”
Rabada’s disciplinary history
Feb, 2017: Inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella. Three demerit points and fined 50 per cent of match fee.
July, 2017: Used inappropriate language after dismissing England allrounder Ben Stokes. One demerit point and fined 15 per cent of match fee.Suspended one Test.
Feb, 2018: Using language which could provoke an aggressive reaction from another player in send-off of India batsman Shikhar Dhawan. One demerit point and fined 15 per cent of match fee.
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13. Live coverage
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage