South Africa vs Australia: Fourth Test Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

We preview the fourth and final Test between South Africa and Australia set to take place at the Wanderers in Johannesburg starting Friday 30 March. 

This series certainly has had its fair share of controversy, so much so that the cricket on display has become somewhat of an afterthought. It’s bizarre to think that Nathan Lyon and Morne Morkel both reached 300 Test wickets in Cape Town. Dean Elgar, meanwhile, became only the second batsman in Test history to carry his bat through a Test innings on three separate occasions, the other being the legendary Desmond Haynes. These colossal achievements appear to have been buried beneath scandal and disgrace – and that’s a real shame. 

After all of the argy-bargy, ball tampering and insult hurling, we still have a Test match to play – at the Wanderers no less! How will the Australians stand up to the competition without Steve Smith and possibly Cameron Bancroft and David Warner? Let’s take a look:
South Africa vs Australia | 30 March - 3 April | The Wanderers, Johannesburg 

To Win Match
South Africa 6/10
Draw 42/10
Australia 11/4

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South Africa
Don’t let the ball-tampering controversy take anything away from the South African side’s performance down at Newlands, which was nothing short of sensational. Of course, most of the credit will have to go to the bowling unit and Morne Morkel in particular. 

‘The Giraffe’ was in fine fettle and fully justified his selection in the side ahead of Lungi Ngidi finishing with match figures of 30.4-9-110-9 that included a five-for in the fourth innings. Vernon Philander was economical as ever while Kagiso Rabada terrorised the opposition top order with a number of brilliantly directed short deliveries. Nobody will ever forget the group of schoolboys who reacted with glee every time one of Rabada’s bouncers struck the body of one of the Australian batsmen.

You feel that they’ll have to be at their best again at the Wanderers where Ngidi could yet feature at the expense of Keshav Maharaj. It’s not unusual for teams to leave out a specialist spinner in Johannesburg where there is always plenty of pace and bounce on offer. You just feel it’s the sort of surface tailor-made to suit Ngidi’s ever-improving skillset.

On the batting front, more will be required from Faf du Plessis. The skipper hasn’t been at his best this series and needs to show a bit of grit going forward. Indeed, 55 runs across four innings (he wasn’t dismissed in the second innings in Port Elizabeth) isn’t good enough for such an accomplished player. 

It was also great to see Aiden Markram, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Philander and Rabada do well with the willow at Newlands. This was especially true in the second innings where the responsibility of getting the 373-runs was brilliantly shared well by the team.

Where to next for the beleaguered Australians? After starting so well in Durban, they’re now staring down the barrel and appear to have been buried beneath a wave a criticism from the press back home. 

The whole incident has hit a nerve with the Aussie press with Jim Maxwell almost brought to tears on live radio while Geoff Lemon penned a heart-breaking piece on the scandal on the ABC website

The players will do well to regroup in the four days between now and the start of the Wanderers Test. Smith will play no part in the final match while it seems increasingly likely that David Warner will be banned by Cricket Australia. Cameron Bancroft, too, could face a ban too which means that the three settled guys in the Australian top order will all miss out. 

This will mean that Peter Handscomb will come into the side while Matt Renshaw will almost certainly fly out to join up with the team. The 21-year-old is seen as the future of the Test side in much the same way as Markram is seen in South Africa. He’s averaged just over 40 for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield this season, scoring three centuries in the process – all of which have come in the last four games. He’s in red-hot form at the minute and will be frothing to test himself against Rabada and co. 

Joe Burns and George Bailey are two more players who could effectively be pulled out of the Shield final. That said, Shaun Marsh has opened the batting at this level before and could partner Renshaw at the top of the Australian order. Needless to say, cover will definitely needed to fly out to South Africa ASAP – whether or not this will affect the Shield final remains to be seen. 

Fortunately for the tourists, their bowling attack should remain largely intact with none of the three seamers nor Lyon were implicated by Smith and should take to the field in Johannesburg. 

Verdict: South Africa 6/10
The South African seamers should have the measure of an Australian top four that could arguably be missing its three best players. You simply can’t go wrong backing the Proteas to get the job done against a decimated Aussie set-up. 

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Written by Jason Dewey for Hollywoodbets

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