Port Elizabeth: Star South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada was banned for the rest of the series against Australia on Monday after being found guilty of two charges of misconduct for aggressive wicket celebrations in the second test in Port Elizabeth.
Rabada's first offense, of intentionally bumping into Australia captain Steve Smith after dismissing him in the first innings, earned the young quick three demerit points and took him over a disciplinary threshold. That led to an automatic two-test ban.
Because of that, Rabada will miss the decisive tests in Cape Town and Johannesburg having won the man-of-the-match award for his 11 wickets in South Africa's series-leveling win in the second match in Port Elizabeth.
The decision by the International Cricket Council was announced just hours after Rabada was the star of the show in the second test at St. George's Park.
"I've let myself down and let the team down," Rabada said. "I have to see it as a learning curve. I'm not happy about it, (but) time moves on."
Rabada contested the first charge, claiming the contact with Smith, who he brushed past as he celebrated the wicket, was unintentional. ICC rules brought in recently are aimed at stopping any physical contact at all between bowlers and batsmen, though, in an attempt to crack down on incidents that might cause flashpoints in games.
Rabada pleaded guilty to the second charge of provoking Australia batsman David Warner when he screamed in Warner's face after dismissing him in the second innings.
The South African team said it was considering whether to appeal Rabada's ban. It has 48 hours to decide on a possible appeal, the team said, although captain Faf du Plessis admitted he was not confident an appeal would be successful.
The punishment for Rabada, one of the most exciting young bowlers in cricket and recently ranked No. 1 in tests, is the latest in a series of disciplinary problems for him over the last 12 months.
The 22-year-old Rabada was banned for one test in England last year, and also received disciplinary demerit points for over-the-top celebrations in games against Sri Lanka and India. Those demerit points added to the points he received for the Smith incident in Port Elizabeth, meaning he reached a threshold and was banned.
"I take no pleasure in seeing a player suspended, particularly a young player of Kagiso's talent, but he has now breached the ICC code of conduct on a number of occasions," match referee Jeff Crowe of New Zealand said.
The decision robs South Africa of its best bowler in a series it has just fought its way back into.
Rabada is one of the most popular cricketers in South Africa, mainly for his major talent but also because he is a young black player in a sport focusing on bringing black players through to the national team to erase the legacy of apartheid.
Rabada does not come from hardship, though. His father is a doctor and his mother a lawyer and he went to a well-known private school in Johannesburg, one of the most expensive in the country.
He represented South Africa at schoolboy level and at under-19, and won the under-19 World Cup in 2014. He was picked for stardom while still a teenager.
Before his punishment was confirmed on Monday, Rabada himself appeared to concede that he was likely out of the rest of the series.
"I would love to be playing," Rabada said, but "it doesn't look good."
Australia allrounder Mitchell Marsh was also found guilty of swearing at Rabada during the fourth day's play on Monday and received a demerit point.
Marsh was the fifth player after South Africa's Rabada and Quinton de Kock and Australia's Warner and Nathan Lyon to be found guilty of misconduct in an ill-tempered series that is only halfway through.