Philander's hack claim gives Australia material for third Test
Cape Town: Vernon Philander can expect to hear from Australia about his claim that he was hacked and was not the author of a late-night swipe at Steve Smith on social media that blamed the captain for Kagiso Rabada's suspension.
After a break since the second Test in Port Elizabeth, the Australian team resumed training on Monday at Newlands at the exact time that Rabada's appeal hearing was due to start by video conference.
Smith's squad have got away from the Rabada drama in the past week. Some have taken off on safari, some have substituted the adrenaline of facing the South African spearhead by going shark diving, while others have had a taste of being real tourists in this corner of the world, climbing Table Mountain and relaxing at Camps Bay.
The Australians haven't been completely out of the loop, though, when it comes to the lingering issue of Rabada's ban and South Africa's protest against it.
One thing they certainly noticed was the tweet issued from Philander's account last week in which the Proteas seamer appeared to blame Smith for the incident that led to Rabada's suspension, alleging he "gave KG (Rabada) the shoulder".
Philander woke up the next morning and claimed he had been hacked. But whether it was him or a Russian bot who was responsible, the Australians took notice.
"We saw the tweet. It was obviously quite popular there for a little while. I don’t know if he wrote it or if his account was hacked or not," opener Cameron Bancroft said.
"That’s his opinion, isn’t it, and he’s got to deal with the consequences of that now, not us.
"If our banter is anything like it has gone this series I’m sure it will be brought up at some stage to get under someone’s nerves.
"That’s boys being boys playing cricket. Who can hurt someone’s feelings the most. It seems to be a bit that way."
Smith himself has been silent on the contact with Rabada since the second Test.
He wasn't required for the much-anticipated appeal, which was being thrashed out between the fast bowler's legal representative, Dali Mpofu, and ICC judicial commissioner Michael Heron QC of New Zealand.
Smith is more concerned with having a major impact with the bat on the final two matches of the series after averaging a below-par 32.5.
"I think the ICC have covered the matter pretty thoroughly and pretty well. There’s no doubt in the rules of the game that actions like that aren’t really appropriate," Bancroft said.
"They will deem from now what comes of that and I’m sure whatever comes about from it will be the right thing. That’s what they’re there to do."
While Rabada has been considered at long odds to have his suspension overturned, Australia's batsmen still headed to the training nets on Monday having to plan as if he would be steaming in at them.
Heron had 48 hours after the hearing to file his report with the ICC, meaning a decision may not be made until Wednesday, the day before the third Test starts.
South Africa, themselves planning for the worst, have added paceman Duanne Olivier and all-rounder Chris Morris to their squad for Newlands, unable to call upon an injured Dale Steyn until at least the fourth Test at the Wanderers.
The retiring Morne Morkel would be the likely man to come in for Rabada but while the absence of the world's No.1 fast bowler looms as a major factor, Australia are reluctant to claim a psychological advantage.
"All their players play pretty tough, hard cricket," Bancroft said. "[Rabada] has been at the front of a lot of attention recently but he’s got a lot of people behind him in the team that play really tough, hard cricket as well.
"As we saw with Olivier in the tour game [in Benoni], they’ve got guys who can play really aggressive cricket. The way South Africa play and the way we play it’s pretty feisty and we certainly push the boundaries a lot, but I think that’s what makes it such a great game for spectators and to be a part of.
"We’re not really worried about that at all, and we know regardless of if he plays or not they’ll come really hard at us."