A test series between Australia and South Africa is always a tense affair. This time, though, the off-field controversies and on-field spats have dominated the rhetoric. This is actually taking away from what has been an absolutely brilliant contest up until now. Now with Kagiso Rabada cleared to play, the Vernon Philander ‘twitter hacking’ fresh in the mind of the Aussies, and the Aussies smarting under defeat, we don’t expect things to get too cordial in this test. In the end, though, it is all about winning this match and avoiding defeat in this series.
Very few people expected Kagiso Rabada to be available for this third test match. Physical altercations, even slight, are looked at very harshly by the ICC. This is why the reversal of his ban is a definite surprise and a massive boost for South Africa.
Now that the World’s number one bowler in tests is cleared to play, the South African attack is looking a lot more solid. Rabada has 15 wickets to his name, including 11 in the second test. He is the one bowler that has caused trouble for every Australian batsman and been able to change the game with some troubling spells.
Keeping him out will be the main priority for the Australians. He is, however, not the only threat that the Australians have to think about. Vernon Philander has been less effective than he was against India but that probably has to do with the pitches. He is another bowler that can really test the openers.
Nigidi and Maharaj did enough to keep their place in the team. We would be surprised if Australia decided to go with four fast bowlers.
The South African batting has so far revolved around AB de Villiers. Easily the best batsman in this side, he has dominated the Australian bowling when everyone around struggled. Aiden Markram played one spectacular inning, Elgar and Amla dug in for a valuable amount of time during the second test, and Quinton de Kock played one attractive inning as well.
All of these players are very solid and there is still de Plessis and the extra batsman to be considered. South Africa may lean towards giving Bavuma a go in the series instead of de Bruyn in this match. The South Africans have an excellent side and are going to be very tough to beat at home.
A couple of weak points in their side would be the over-reliance on Rabada and de Villiers. If both these players have a poor outing then South Africa could find itself outclassed against a quality Australian side.
Steve Smith has come out and questioned the reversal of Kagiso Rabada’s ban. It is obvious that he and the entire Australian team thought they were going to have a massive advantage going into this game. Still, it is not the Aussie way to back down and they will come at the South Africans hard.
The availability of Starc and Mitchell Marsh has meant that they will play the same team in this test match as well. Both the Mitchell’s have played a massive role in the test series so far. While Starc has been menacing with the old ball, Marsh has contributed with the bat and picked up some crucial wickets as well.
This Australian team does not have the strongest batting order. Cameron Bancroft is still settling into his role, Khawaja is good without being consistent enough to be called great, and bowlers will definitely sense opportunities against Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine.
The leaves us with David Warner, Steve Smith, and Mitchell Marsh. These are the three players that have the ability to score runs quickly, take the attack to the South Africans, and play match-winning innings.
David Warner has been embroiled in a lot of controversies and we are unsure if that will get the best out of him. He really needs to play his cricket freely but not necessarily get into brawls so often. Steve Smith is the best test batsman in the world right now. His returns in this series have been average for someone who sets the bar so high.
There have been reports of Steve Smith batting a lot more aggressively in the nets and we don’t think that is a good thing. Steve Smith does not need to change anything about his batting or pre-determine his style of play. He is good enough to react in the middle and let his instincts take over.
We saw Steve Smith become more aggressive and less secure in the crease during the latter parts of a tough tour to India. The same may be the case this time around.
Australia has the bowling to match South Africa. In fact, we actually think their attack is better. They just need to find a way past AB de Villiers. The South African legend has not let the bowlers settle and they currently don’t seem to have too many answers to him.
The Aussies will also not get the same amount of reverse as they did in the last match. If heavens forbid, an injury occurs to Starc or one of the other fast bowlers, then Australia can kiss this match goodbye. We have a feeling that Hazelwood will be the one to cause the most damage for the Aussies in this match.
Pitch and Conditions
Rain is not expected to be a concern on any of the days of the test match. The pitch will have a little bit of grass to start out with and then flatten out as the game progresses. We think the bowlers from both the teams will have to work very hard to get 20 wickets. Expect plenty of runs from both teams. Reverse swing is not going to be as much of a threat as in the previous matches thanks to an outfield that is lusher and a pitch that seems less abrasive.
South Africa will go into this series knowing that they have their best opportunity to record a home test series victory against Australia in a long time. Three out of the last five test matches between the two sides have been won by South Africa.
We are backing them to win this match as well. Back South Africa to win.
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