South Africa looking to put Rabada episode behind them



South Africa's squad reconvened under clear blue skies in Cape Town on Monday (March 19), but one of their number was missing. Training was scheduled for 2pm at Newlands, but fast bowler Kagiso Rabada was still tied up in a marathon appeal hearing, which is set to decide his fate for the remainder of the series.



South Africa's players may have dispersed last Tuesday after an impressive win over Australia in Port Elizabeth, but Rabada's case has hung over the mid-series break. His appeal began at 9.30am on Monday, and did not conclude until 3.15pm.

For almost six hours, Rabada's case was put to judicial commissioner Michael Heron via a video call to New Zealand. In question is whether his shoulder contact with Steve Smith, which attracted a level two charge and three demerit points, was both deliberate and inappropriate. At stake is his involvement in the final two Tests.

For anyone with a focus on the actual cricket, it seems like a long time to debate a single moment that took place when the ball was dead and in which no injury occurred. A verdict will be delivered by Heron and the ICC within 48 hours of the hearing's conclusion, and South Africa are looking forward to moving on with the game.

"We haven't even spoken about it since we got together today. We're trying to isolate ourselves from that situation," Dean Elgar said ahead of South Africa's training session. "As players we don't have influence over what has happened in the hearing or what could happen. But it would be nice to put it behind us.

"There's been so much noise and I think people have actually forgotten that there's such a great series happening between two extremely strong and competitive teams. Whether 'KG' is playing in the third test or not, it's out of our hands. Hopefully we can put this behind us and carry on playing cricket."
As hard as South Africa are trying to practice non-attachment as they refocus their minds on the task ahead, there is no escaping what they stand to lose if Rabada's ban stands. The 22-year-old was the standout bowler in Port Elizabeth, taking an incredible 11 wickets as he put the off-field drama to one side.

"Having him in the side is massive for us. It's massive for the game. It's massive for the format. Because 'KG' is an extremely special cricketer," said Elgar. "We know there are rules that are implemented for certain instances and we as cricketers respect that. If he's good to go for the third Test it would be awesome for us and for the game."

Should Rabada's appeal fail, South Africa will need a new pace spearhead. Morne Morkel and Chris Morris will compete for his place in the playing XI, but in truth the home side already have a replacement attack leader in their side.

The lack of seam movement at St George's Park reduced Vernon Philander to a containing bowler - a role he fulfilled with aplomb as he went at 2.25 runs per over and picked up two key wickets in the first innings. But Philander's record at Newlands is sensational - in eight Tests on his home ground, the seamer has 47 wickets at an average of 16.34. None, of course, are quite so famous as the 5 for 15 he picked up on debut when Australia were bowled out for 47.

Elgar put this down to the home crowd support that Philander enjoys - he grew up in Ravensmead, one of the tougher suburbs of Cape Town, and has played all his cricket in the city. That support might come in handy this week, with Australia signalling that they are likely to give Philander a tough time over a tweet that the South African insists was posted by a hacker.

The tweet, which was quickly deleted, suggested that Smith was "just as guilty" for the shoulder contact as Rabada, and accused the Australian captain of "trying football skills to get a penalty". "If our banter is anything like it has gone this series I'm sure it will be brought up at some stage (of the Newlands Test) to get under someone's nerves," Cameron Bancroft said on Monday. Not that South Africa are worrying.

"I think he'll take it in his stride, like 'Vern' does," said Elgar. "He's quite a relaxed human being, but on the field he's as competitive as anyone else. He's got a set of skills that helps us out as a team and knowing Vernon I'm sure he'll take it in his stride. I'm sure he's going to expect that they're going to come out and say something to him on the field. I'm sure he's pretty prepared for that."
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