Walking on eggshells: Two years on the edge for Warner
DAVID Warner has avoided a Test suspension but will be walking on eggshells for the next two years after his stairwell fracas with Quinton de Kock
Warner accepted a level two charge for breaching the ICC's code of conduct on Wednesday, resulting in a 75% fine of his match fee (approximately $13,500) and three demerit points.
Those three demerit points will remain on Warner's rap sheet for the next two years, meaning even the smallest of infractions will land the Australian vice-captain a stint on the sidelines.
Under the ICC's code of conduct four demerit points within 24 months will result in a player being banned for either one Test or two limited overs internationals. Eight points in two years will see a player serve a suspension twice as long.
Across those 24 months Australia will play marquee Test series against fierce rivals England and India, host South Africa in limited-overs cricket and defend its title at the 2019 World Cup.
Warner would loathe to sit out any of the action in those campaigns, or any other Australian series in the next two years, but to avoid a suspension he will have to walk a disciplinary tightrope.
While it takes something out of the ordinary to be hit with three demerit points, the most innocuous of actions could lead to Warner picking up a dreaded fourth.
A level one charge is all it will take for Warner to pick up one more demerit point.
The Durban Test saw Nathan Lyon pick up a level one charge for his send-off of AB de Villiers.
The Australian spinner dropped the ball centimetres away from de Villiers after running him out.
De Kock was also pinged with a demerit point for his part in day four's ugly interlude.
But it does not take anything nearly as conspicuous to draw the ire of the match referee.
Last August, West Indies captain Jason Holder was levelled with a demerit point for "using language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting during an international match."
Holder's crime? Swearing after he had a catch dropped off his own bowling.
Ben Stokes picked up a similar reprimand in the same series. Hit for a boundary by Shai Hope, the all-rounder swore to himself but was picked up by the stump mics.
That saw his tally rise to three demerit points and with the Ashes around the corner, Nasser Hussain suggested he should intentionally pick up another to avoid missing a match against Australia.
"If I were (England captain Joe) Root I'd be tempted to tell him to get another demerit point during the third Test at Lord's (against the Windies)," Hussain said.
"So he'd reach the four-point threshold for a ban and miss two of the forthcoming one-day matches, for which he may have been rested anyway, rather than an Ashes game."
Stokes of course went on to miss the Ashes for very different reasons.
Warner is not the only player at risk of picking up a suspension this series.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was fined 100% of his match fee and hit with three demerit points after being charged with ball tampering in Australia last summer.
Twenty-two-year-old Kagiso Rabada has picked up demerit points at a rate almost impressive as he has wickets. The tyro has five demerit points to his name - three more and he will be banned for two Tests or four limited overs internationals.
Rabada missed a Test against England last year after stump mics heard him celebrate the dismissal of Stokes by telling him to "f*** off" at Lord's.
Last month he picked up a demerit point in a one-dayer against India to move to five demerit points. That put him firmly in Australia's cross hairs, with captain Steve Smith hinting pre-series they would do what they could to rile him up.
"It could perhaps be a plan to try and get him fired up," Smith said.
"You never know what some guys do when they're fired up."
"He's obviously a quality bowler and a big player for them. You don't want to see guys getting suspended or anything like that, you want to come up against the best, but you never know."
Don't be surprised if South Africa take a similar approach with Warner for the remainder of the series.