South Africa vs Australia: Third Test Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

We preview the third Test between South Africa and Australia which is set to get underway on 22 March at Newlands. 

With the furore surrounding Kagiso Rabada’s brush with Steve Smith being downgraded to a level one offence thanks to some help from Advocate Dali Mpofu, it’s nice to focus on the cricket once again. 

Of course, the previous week’s events will only add more fire to a series which has already seen far too many spicy incidents for the ICC’s indescribably weak stomach. So what can we expect in Cape Town later this week? Let’s take a look:

South Africa vs Australia | 22 March – 26 March | PPC Newlands, Cape Town

To Win Match
South Africa 5/4
Draw 15/4
Australia 14/10

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South Africa
The Proteas will no doubt be thrilled to have Rabada available for the remainder of this series. The world’s number one ranked Test bowler picked up 11 wickets in Port Elizabeth in what was a stunning performance. His ability to swing the ball both ways at pace rattled the normally unflappable Australian top and middle order. 

More of the same will be required heading into Cape Town then. Of course, the supporting cast were also firing two weeks ago. Lungi Ngidi continues to go from strength to strength while Keshav Maharaj and Vernon Philander enjoyed success at St. George’s Park. 

There are still question marks surrounding the South African batting, however. They can’t afford to be bailed out by de Villiers and the bowlers forever. Aiden Markram needs to start converting his starts into bigger scores on a more consistent basis and Faf du Plessis needs a score after failures in the first two Tests. Temba Bavuma will add some much-needed steel to the South African middle order in place of Theunis de Bruyn. Other than that, I don't expect any changes to the side.

The Australians were comfortable victors at Newlands last time the teams met here. David Warner, Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon – the three surviving members of that side – all put in solid shifts during that match. Warner’s scores of 135 and 145 earned him the man of the match then – wouldn’t he dearly love to repeat the trick here once again after everything that's gone down on this tour?

The Australians were uncharacteristically poor in the second Test in Port Elizabeth. Scores of 243 all out and 239 all out simply aren’t good enough, especially for a top order that includes the likes of Warner, Usman Khawaja and Smith. 

Smith has been particularly disappointing in this series with many pointing out his deficiencies against the left-arm spin. Keshav Maharaj (2) and part-timer Dean Elgar (1) have got him three out of four times in this series thus far. This is something the South Africans will have picked up on and most likely won’t hesitate to throw Maharaj into the attack as soon as the Aussie skipper walks out into the middle. 

Whether or not this will have any marked effect on the way he plays in Cape Town remains to be seen. The pressure certainly is mounting, his series average of 32.50 simply isn’t good enough for a player of his quality. 

More too will be required from Australia’s attack. While they can be commended for keeping Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar pegged back in South Africa's first innings in PE, they ultimately failed to strike. This set the platform for AB de Villiers to launch into his splendid 126-run counter-attack which tipped the match into South Africa’s favour.

Verdict: South Africa 5/4
The South Africans will be fired up following all of the off-field incidents over the last 10 days, and they’ll be fueled by what should be a cracking Newlands crowd. Back a full-strength South African side to get the job done down in the Cape at 5/4.

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Written by Jason Dewey for Hollywoodbets

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