Australian cricketer James Faulkner clarified that he was not gay on Tuesday after a post about his “boyfriend” on social media was widely interpreted as a landmark coming-out statement.

Faulkner shared the post late Monday, showing him celebrating his 29th birthday with his mother and friend Rob Jubb.

“Birthday dinner with the boyfriend (bestmate!!!)... #togetherfor5years,” said on his verified Instagram account, quickly racking up 20,000 likes and around 1,000 comments. The ‘best mate’ was missing in the original post.

Most believed the message was the allrounder’s way of revealing his sexuality, which would have made him the first male professional cricketer in the country to confirm they were gay.

It prompted hundreds of positive messages, including from fellow Australian cricketers Glenn Maxwell, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait.

“Great courage mate, bet [you] feel better,” Tait wrote. “Happy birthday mate! Great courage,” Maxwell responded.

But as reaction to Faulkner’s post gained momentum, he took to social media again saying “there seems to be a misunderstanding”.

“I am not gay... (Jubb) is just a great friend. Last night marked five years of being house mates!” he wrote.

He also praised the response to the coming-out that never was.

“It has been fantastic to see the support from and for the LBGT community. Let’s never forget love is love,” he wrote.

Cricket Australia denied Faulkner’s post was a misguided attempt at humour, saying both the player and the organisation recognised coming out could be “an incredibly emotional time”.

“The post was not in any way meant to make light of this and, though the support from the community was overwhelming and positive, Cricket Australia apologises for any unintended offence,” it said.

Faulkner has played one Test, 69 one-dayers and 24 Twenty20 matches for Australia, last representing his country in late 2017.

He was man-of-the-match when Australia won the Cricket World Cup final against New Zealand in 2015, taking three crucial wickets.

Faulkner still plays T20 for the Hobart Hurricanes in Australia and Lancashire in England.

Cricket Australia’s guarded response must be seen in the light of what is happening in Australian sport. The incident comes at a tricky time as the country’s rugby association is moving to sack Wallabies star Israel Folau over a social media post saying “hell awaits” gays, with the matter set to go before a code of conduct hearing this weekend.

The devoutly religious Folau was informed last week of plans to terminate his multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract after posting on social media that “hell awaits” homosexuals.

Folau had asserted on his Instagram account that “hell awaits” “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators”. It sparked widespread criticism, including from key Wallabies sponsor Qantas, with the scandal following a similar one last year in which he escaped sanction.

(With AFP inputs)