Players from both sides from have talked down the hostility surrounding the dramatic run out of AB de Villiers on day four, but Proteas legend Graeme Smith has cautioned the teams not to cross the line.
De Villiers was involved in a mix up with Aiden Markram and run out for a golden duck on Sunday morning to leave South Africa’s pursuit of 417 to win in tatters at 3-39.
De Villiers’ dismissal was followed by raucous celebration from the visitors led by vice-captain David Warner, who was responsible for the fielding effort that sparked the dramatic wicket and who let Markram know the crime he had just committed in running out the player the Australians regard as the Proteas’ best.
As a super-charged Warner was mobbed by his teammates, Nathan Lyon, who whipped off the bails at the non-striker’s end, dropped the ball and grazed de Villiers’ shirt while the batsman was flat on his back having desperately dived back to his crease.
Speaking after play having made a superb 143, Markram told reporters he had no issues with Warner’s epic spray and that the Proteas dressing room had not discussed Lyon’s actions.
But Smith labelled Lyon’s act unnecessary and suggested the hosts ignore Warner.
“The Aussies were pretty fired up at that time pushing for a victory,” Smith told cricket.com.au in Durban, where Australia need just one wicket on day five for victory.
“But he (Lyon) is an experienced cricketer.
“I think he’ll probably say it was unnecessary himself.
“We’ve got used to Davey over the years. I think the less interest you take in him the better.
“He can be a bit of a fool at times. It's best just to let him be.”
Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine said at stumps there “wasn’t too much aggression” during Warner’s send-off and detailed the message the tourists delivered to the young Proteas opener.
“We spoke to Aiden about running out their best player and one of the best players in the world,” Paine said. “I think had someone run Smithy (Steve Smith) out in our team you'd cop a fair bit of a ribbing.
“It was nothing aggressive. It was just reminding him of what he had just done, trying to get him off his game, the same as they do to us. It didn't work."
While Paine said the reminder didn’t put Markram off his game, the 23-year-old said the mix up did rattle him in the wake of the run out.
"I think just having what happened did affect me a little bit,” Markram said.
“You hear every word out on the field but I don't speak back on the field, I try to just get on with what I do and it's always going to be there.
“It's part of the Australian side to keep chatting to batters but it's something I really do enjoy, it'll keep coming for the rest of the series but I enjoy it.”
He added: “It never really gets out of line either, not a lot of swearing or things like that happen.
“There are a few here and there but it’s not the end of the world. I believe it’s part of the game.
“It’s how the game should be played, nice and hard, and makes success that bit more rewarding.”
Smith, who was not shy of banter in his 117-Test career, says players should expect sledging in Test cricket but has warned both Australia and South Africa to not take it too far.
“I think everyone that’s played the game has hard moments and that’s what makes the hundred from Markram so special,” Smith said.
“He’s had to work, he’s showed great composure, the Aussies were all over him after that run out.
“Everyone wants to be competitive, people love watching that.
“I think there’s always a line that you’ve got to be careful you don’t cross.”
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