Australia v South Africa – 3rd Test Preview

The series is done and dusted.

Australia are playing for a spot in the WTC (World Test Championship) Final; South Africa, for pride. During a thumping innings-and-182-run defeat at the ‘G, the Proteas finally cracked the elusive 200+ run barrier for the first time in their past eight feeble attempts. The tourists will have to walk out for the anthems in Sydney without Theinus de Bruyn who is now back home awaiting the birth of his first child. Their batting stocks have become more poriferous by the Test.

Meanwhile, the home selection committee have been in overdrive looking to accommodate the loss of Starc (finger tendon) and a Cameron Green (broken finger) fresh off his maiden five wicket haul (5/27) and longest stint at the crease to date, in Test cricket (51*). Speculation abounds, but the prevailing wisdom is that – pitch dependent -getting some overs into the left-arm orthodox of Ashton Agar, can only help when it comes to next month’s tour of India. This would mean elevating Alex Carey to bat at six, a position he is more than capable of holding.

Carey became the seventh (7th) Australian wicket keeper to score a Test century last week, and just the second to do so during the Boxing Day Test, joining the late Rod Marsh. He now averages more (39.56) than every player in the entire South African batting line-up.

Agar himself is no mug with the willow – who could forget his blistering 98 on debut in Nottingham, with Phil Hughes up the other end? A knock for which Agar still holds the record of most runs made in an innings by a Test number eleven. His lack of red ball cricket will be a concern, however, his fantastic fielding, control and ability to spin the Kookaburra the opposite way to Nathan Lyon, should hold him in good stead.

The week’s big discussion has centred around young West Australian firebrand, Lance Morris. The 24 year old is this season’s leading Sheffield Shield wicket taker, and regularly nudges 150km/ph. All traits that will surely make him a fan favourite if he can start the year wearing his own baggy green. The last time a young speedster was unleashed against this opposition on debut, he ended up becoming the Australian Test captain. Just sayin’.

The consensus that speed must be harnessed would no doubt have gained further potency after the scintillating spells of Anrich Nortje, during the second Test. Regularly troubling David Warner, when battling through the 90’s on his way to a cramp-inducing double ton (200), Nortje showed the immense value of raw pace.

Here’s hoping, for the spectacle if nothing else, that Morris gets his chance. It’ll be harsh on whoever misses out (likely Boland) but if you don’t routinely take 6/7 – you’ve only got yourself to blame!

While we’re at it, here’s doubly hoping Lance can shed the haggard moniker of “Wild Thing”and the Aussie pundits and players can combine to create something a fraction more original.

For Australia, this is their last battle in whites until next month’s India tour, for South Africa the final chance to correct their many foibles before welcoming a hapless West Indies to Centurion in late Feb. It may well be the last time we see these fierce combatants playing with a red ball on this land, for many a moon to come.

There are few certainties in sport: Djoker will take a medical timeout when trailing in a major final, Brian Taylor will inexplicably fixate on the precise crowd attendance (“62,371 – Wowee!”) and there will be rain during in the Sydney New Year’s Test. South Africa returning to play Test cricket on these shores, in our lifetime, cannot be counted as a lock.

Our host for the fifteenth (15th) annual Pink Test, is an SCG that has produced three draws from the last four occasions. More to do with the weather than the surface, we are again anticipating delays. This year’s expected precipitation should do little to dampen the attendees’ festive spirits, nor should it wash away the Proteas batting woes – expect it to continue raining wickets in a (sporadically damp) Australian clean sweep…



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