The penultimate act in the Kagiso Rabada suspension saga concluded on Monday afternoon after his six-hour appeal hearing ended in Cape Town.
Rabada is fighting a two-Test ban after coming into contact with Australia captain Steve Smith on day one of the second Test in Port Elizabeth, a collision that saw the spearhead earn three demerit points that resulted in an automatic suspension from the rest of the series.
Now all that remains is for Judicial Commissioner Mike Heron QC from New Zealand to deliver his verdict within 48 hours, which will arrive just in time for the third Test starting at Newlands on Thursday.
Rabada was flanked by three lawyers, headed by high-profile South African barrister Dali Mpofu, and Proteas team manager Dr Mohammad Moosajee for the video conference with Heron yesterday.
Moosajee spoke to reporters after the “marathon” hearing, saying: “I think in any hearing you’ve got to be as happy as you can be, we’ve put our side of the story across and now it’s up to the Judicial Commissioner to make a stand on what he thinks.”
After the hearing ended around 3:15pm local time, Rabada made his way to Proteas training at Newlands where he bowled, batted and prepared as if he was playing.
The Proteas have four reserve fast bowlers in their squad, having added Duane Olivier and Chris Morris for the final two Tests, should Rabada’s suspension be sustained.
Rabada was banned for two Tests after ICC match referee Jeff Crowe found the paceman guilty of a Level 2 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct when he brushed shoulders with Smith after dismissing the tourists’ skipper at St George’s Park.
The 22-year-old contested the charge but Crowe upheld the decision and handed down a punishment of three demerit points and 50 per cent of the right-armer’s match fee.
He was later hit with a further 15 per cent fine and an additional demerit point for his send-off of David Warner on day three, a sanction he did not appeal.
The right-armer was named player of the match in South Africa’s six-wicket win in Port Elizabeth for his phenomenal match haul of 11-150, a feat that saw him rise to the top of the ICC’s Test bowling rankings.
But in the wake of the Proteas’ series-levelling win, Rabada reflected on his actions and what lay ahead.
“I’ve let myself and the team down,” Rabada said.
“But I have to move forward and I have to see, if I do get banned, then I have to see it as a big learning curve and not repeat the same mistake, because I’ve ‘repeated’ the same mistake in the eyes of the umpires.
“I’m not happy about it.”
Proteas teammate Dean Elgar said Rabada’s inclusion for the third Test would be “awesome” not only for South Africa but Test cricket.
“Having him in the side is massive for us,” Elgar said on Monday while Rabada’s hearing was taking place.
“I think it’s massive for the game, it’s massive for the format, because ‘KG’ is an extremely special cricketer.
"But we do know there are rules that are implemented for certain incidents in the game and we as cricketers respect that.”
Elgar said the Proteas are hoping the cricket can return to being the focus once the verdict has been delivered.
“We as players are trying to isolate ourselves away from that situation,” he said.
“We know as players we don’t have an influence with regards to what’s happened in the hearing or what can possibly happen.
“But it would be nice to put it behind us now.
“There has been so much noise and people have actually forgotten there’s such a great Test series happening between two extremely strong and competitive teams.
“It’s such a pity that all this backroom noise is actually hindering what is a quite exciting Test series.
“Whatever happens we just put it behind us and whether ‘KG’ is playing in the third Test or not it’s out of our hands and hopefully we can put this behind us and carry on playing cricket.”
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.
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 South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage