Third Test preview: South Africa v Australia


The third Test takes place at Newlands, where the last time the sides met the Aussies were removed for 47. The series is level at one all, Sunday is sold out, and anticipation is at red on the gauge.

What is a Test series involving Australia without David Warner saying something controversial? Once again, the opener's mouth has distracted from the cricket, namely the post-PE win for the Proteas, and the pre-Cape Town action.

The third Test takes place at Newlands, where the last time the sides met the Aussies were removed for 47. The series is level at one all, Sunday is sold out, and anticipation is at red on the gauge.

The Proteas need to win or draw to avoid their first series defeat in nearly six years, and a win will also give them their first series win against the Aussies on home soil. Helpfully for the hosts, they have not lost here in their past 10 Tests.

The Aussies are boosted by the return of all-rounder Shane Watson, who missed the first two games with a calf injury, and thus the inability to bowl. His golden arm swinginess will be valuable in this game.

He will be especially handy if Ryan Harris does indeed play. The paceman is a doubt as his knee surgery is looming, and he's been on the park for most of the past 12 Tests. He said he felt like a 'bowling machine' in PE, so he'll likely get less overs if he does play.

Harris could, of course, be replaced by either Jackson Bird or James Pattinson, both of whom have recovered from injury and have been whipping it down in the nets, by all accounts.

Watson's return would, of course, mean the dropping of either number three Alex Doolan or number four Shaun Marsh, neither of whom impressed in PE after good displays in the opening Test.

As for the Proteas, it is likely that Alviro Petersen will return to open the batting with Graeme Smith, though neither of the two are in good nick so will need to find some inspiration from the brewery-infused air or something.

As such, Dean Elgar will either be dropped or move down the order, completely out of position, or Quinton de Kock will be retained at six. This seems unlikely, given Elgar's superior performance in PE.

The other conundrum is: Do the Proteas bring Ryan McLaren back after his concussion, given his lack of impact in Centurion, or do they bring spinner Robin Peterson back instead? Or, go for Rory Kleinveldt, OR! Kyle Abbott, he of the nine wickets on debut.

However the teams line up, eyes will be on AB de Villiers' ball handling technique between deliveries, Mitchell Johnson's fieriness after the smolder in PE, and the hooping swing generated by Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn.

<b>Key Men</b><br>For the hosts, the question will be thus: Can <b>AB de Villiers</b> score a 50-plus knock for a 13th consecutive Test? He is the fifth-highest run scorer at the ground, though Smith and Amla average higher, but he is the unstoppable man.

The Aussies, according to Shane Warne, will be relying on <b>Nathan Lyon</b>'s spin, and on the evidence presented in PE, that's not a bad assumption. He took a five-fer on a track with no turn, so it will be interesting to see what he does on one that spins.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2014: Second Test: South Africa won by 231 runs in Port Elizabeth<br>2014: First Test: Australia won by 281 runs in Centurion<br>2012: Third Test: South Africa won by 309 runs in Perth<br>2012: Second Test: Match drawn in Adelaide<br>2012: First Test: Match drawn in Brisbane

<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>South Africa:</i> Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Robin Peterson/Ryan McLaren, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.

<i>Australia:</i> David Warner, Chris Rogers, Shane Watson, Alex Doolan/Shaun Marsh, Michael Clarke, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Bird/Pattinson/Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon.

<b>Dates:</b> 1 to 5 March<br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:30-12:30 (08:30-10:30 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:10-15:10 (11:10-13:10 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:30-17:30 (13:30-15:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Aleem Dar and Ian Gould <br><b>Third umpire:</b> Richard Illingworth<br><b>Match referee:</b> Roshan Mahanama