Former South African captain Faf du Plessis has accused Steve Smith of “milking” his infamous on-field contact with Proteas paceman Kagiso Rabada, which dominated headlines in 2018.
Before the Test series became embroiled in a ball-tampering saga, Rabada found himself in hot water for his post-wicket celebration after dismissing Smith in the second Test at St George’s Park.
Watch Australia v South Africa. Every test match live and ad-break in play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
After trapping Smith on the pads for 25 in Port Elizabeth, Rabada roared in the Australian captain’s direction before the pair brushed shoulders.
Smith immediately spun around, indicating to teammate Shaun Marsh that there was contact before calling for a review, which was unsuccessful.
Following the incident, an inflammatory message was posted to Vernon Philander’s Twitter account: “Haven’t really seen the footage of this incident but by the looks of this … Steve Smith gave KG the shoulder. He could have avoided any contact but to me he is just as guilty. Trying some football skills to get a penalty??? Pity he didn’t dive to top it off.”
Philander later claimed his Twitter account was hacked.
Because Rabada was a repeat offender, the International Cricket Council handed down a two-match suspension which would have ruled him out for the remainder of the series.
But the South African became one of the first players to successfully overturn an ICC ban following a six-hour appeal hearing, finishing as the highest wicket-taker with 23 scalps at 19.26 in four Tests, later named player of the series.
”I won’t change the way I express myself,” Rabada said at the time.
“I will just get far away from the batter.”
After Rabada’s suspension was overturned, Smith argued that the ICC had set a precedent for on-field contact moving forward.
He aired his grievances with reporters ahead of the third Test in Cape Town, voicing his concerns with how the appeal process unfolded.
“I certainly don’t think I baited Kagiso in any way. That’s how I felt anyway,” he told reporters at the time.
“The contact was harder than it actually looked on the TV. Whether it was intentional or not that’s not for me to decide.
“I think when you’ve got someone out you’ve already won the battle. There’s no need to go over the top. I was walking down the other end of the wicket, I certainly didn’t change my line or anything.
“The ICC have set the standard, haven’t they? There was clearly contact out in the middle. I certainly won’t be telling my bowlers to go out there and after you take a wicket go and get in their space. I don’t think that is on and part of the game.”
Commenting on Philander’s tweet, Smith scoffed: “That was a bit over the top … that’s all a load of garbage.”
Two years later, Rabada would be suspended for one match for an overzealous celebration after dismissing England captain Joe Root in Port Elizabeth.
It was the South African quick’s fourth violation of the code of conduct in 24 months.
FROM ‘SOFT’ TO UNSTOPPABLE: Inside rise to cricket royalty
WARNER’S TEST FUTURE: Veteran firmly in India plans
Earlier this summer, du Plessis addressed the incident in his autobiography Faf Through Fire,
reopening old wounds ahead of South Africa’s first Test series against Australia since the ball-tampering saga.
The 38-year-old compared Smith to a footballer, suggesting the Australian exaggerated the collision’s severity.
“This episode has almost been forgotten against the backdrop of what the series still had up its sleeve, or more accurately, down its trousers,” du Plessis wrote.
“They brushed shoulders during one of KG’s overs but Smith milked it like a football player. We knew that KG was one demerit point away from a suspension.”
Speaking to News Corp ahead of the first Test in Brisbane, Rabada refused to comment on his heated clash with Smith — until his retirement, that is.
“What’s happened has happened,’’ Rabada said.
“I am not going to say anything now. After my career I might talk a bit more about it and look back at what happened. But at the moment we will move on.
“It was definitely a Test series I will never forget and things did not end too well off the field.”
The 2018 Test series in South Africa was headlined by several on and off-field scandals, which are well-documented: David Warner’s dressing room confrontation with Quinton de Kock, Nathan Lyon’s tasteless run-out celebration and, of course, the Cape Town sandpapergate scandal.
Nearly five years later, Smith is adamant there’s no lingering animosity between the two nations.
“The cricket we’ve played over the last four and a half years we’ve played in the right way, we’ve been hard and played in the right spirit,” Smith told reporters on Sunday.
“So for us nothing changes, we’re just going to continue to go about our business and hopefully play good, entertaining cricket.”
South African captain Dean Elgar echoed Smith’s sentiments earlier in the week, asserting the Proteas harbour no ill feelings.
“It was a very tough time for all of us, even though we weren’t the guys who took the brunt of everything. But we were part of that,” he told reporters.
“They were sad events, but I don’t have animosity towards the players involved or CA. They were unfortunate scenes but that period has long elapsed and we’ve moved forward.
“I wish things could have been a lot different. The history, when it comes to Test cricket between South Africa and Australia, is so rich. The competitive nature is very similar. We both want to go out and play a brand of cricket that our countries can be proud of. It was extremely juicy, even building up to that game in Cape Town. They were interesting times.”
The series opener between Australia and South Africa gets underway at the Gabba on Saturday, with the first ball scheduled for 11.20am AEDT.