Former England cricketer Ian Botham believes Kagiso Rabada's suspension is harsh. Picutre: Jon Super

LONDON - Three former England captains united to condemn the one-match ban given to South African paceman Kagiso Rabada.

He will miss the second test starting on Friday after receiving a fourth demerit point in 24 months for what the International Cricket Council called "inappropriate language" towards batsman Ben Stokes in the first test at Lord's on Friday.

The three previous points were all for "deliberate physical contact" against Sri Lanka's Niroshan Dickwella in February.

"It seems a nonsense to me that those two things combined have resulted in a test match ban," Michael Atherton told Sky Sports viewers after watching film of both incidents.

"Three demerit points for that slight bit of contact with Dickwella and then yesterday when it's hardly directed at Ben Stokes."

"For me it's ridiculous," said one of Atherton's predecessors Ian Botham.

"It's a physical game and you're talking about heat-of-the-moment exchanges. That's just a nudge."

A third former captain, David Gower, agreed.

"It's highlighted by the fact that those points from a previous offence mean he's not going to be playing in the next test match of the series. It is a very, very harsh punishment."

South Africa are already missing paceman Dale Steyn for the whole series with a shoulder injury and on Saturday fellow seamer Vernon Philander was taken to hospital for an x-ray after being hit on the hand during his innings of 52. 

The x-ray showed no bones were broken.

He was last man out as South Africa were dismissed for 361, 97 behind on first innings.

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