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On with the game in Port Elizabeth

The sledging side-show that has dominated headlines over the past week can finally be put to bed as we gear up for the second Test between South Africa and Australia.

It’s unlikely to be the last bit of nastiness between the bitter rivals but we live in hope.

The distraction from the task at hand probably favours the tourists who seem to feed off this kind of nonsense, though it will almost certainly motivate the Proteas as well.

However the match itself will be decided, as the first was, by performances on the field not what proceeds from players lips.

There were plenty of positives for both sides with Keshav Maharaj bowling well and Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram showing good form with the willow while the tourists enjoyed excellent displays from Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon.

Both sides will want to get a little more out of their top order batsmen with the Proteas veteran trio of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla needing to turn up in a big way.

Australia saw glimpses of what their top order can do in Durban but still look to be heavily reliant on Steve Smith.

South Africa showed good fight at Kingsmead but can ill-afford to surrender control of the game as early and thoroughly as their first innings batting collapse at Kingsmead did.

For the Proteas each and every exchange should be approached as a part of a battle to stay on top of Australia and sap them of confidence.

Australia will look for more of the same really as they look to keep their roll going after a successful Ashes campaign at home.

David Warner may have to reign himself in a bit as even a minor infraction in the next two years will now see him earn a suspension after he was handed three demerits for his altercation with De Kock in Durban.

The spinners on either side will play an important role but the seamers will have to maintain the pressure at all times to prevent batsmen from getting on top.

Key Players

The Proteas need a big lift from their skipper Faf du Plessis and even with the likes of Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers runs for the captain will be super valuable.

Australia will look to Steve Smith to punish their opponents yet again and you certainly wouldn’t bet against the number one Test batsman in the world right now.

Vernon Philander’s ability to get wickets early on could give the Proteas the edge they need to come out and level the series.

Starc rediscovering his reverse swing was a massive moment in the Durban Test that landed a knockout blow to the hosts and he could be central again in PE.

Squads

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungisani Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

Australia: Steve Smith (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.

Weather forecast

Warm and pleasant for much of the Test but there could be some rain around on Sunday (Day three).

Details

Hours of play (local time): 10.00 start, Lunch 12.00-12.40, Tea 14.40-15.00, Close 17.00
Match days: 09-13 March 2018 (5-day match)
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena and Chris Gaffaney
TV Umpires: Sundaram Ravi
Reserve Umpire: Bongani Jele
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe
Where to watch: SABC 3, SuperSport 2 (South Africa), Channel 9 (Australia) Sony Ten 1 & Sony Ten 3 (India), Sky Sports Main Event (UK).