Australia v South Africa Third Test
Thursday November 24, 2:30pm AEDT
Australia will be hoping to avoid the ignominy of a first ever home series clean-sweep defeat by pulling off a face-saving win over South Africa in the thirst test in Adelaide, starting on Thursday.
The series slipped from Australia’s grasp on the first morning in Hobart when after being sent in under murky skies they were rolled over for just 85 with captain Steve Smith the only batsman to contribute more than 10. While their bowlers hit back with some early wickets to leave the Proteas stuttering at 5-132, they eventually ceded a deficit of 241 on the first innings, which was 80 less than the Aussies could manage in their second dig as they slipped from 2-129 to 161 all out to round off a humiliating innings defeat.
There were few bright spots but captain Smith showed some fight in both innings while the classy Usman Khawaja notched a promising 64 in challenging conditions. The bowlers had every right to be upset at their underperforming teammates with the bat, especially Josh Hazlewood who claimed 6-89.
In response to the loss the new-look Australian selection panel has swung the axe for Adelaide, with batsmen Joe Burns, Adam Voges and Callum Ferguson omitted, while pace bowler Joe Mennie could join Ferguson as a one-test wonder after he was also left out along with wicket-keeper Peter Nevill.
After just 12 first-class games 20-year-old opener Matt Renshaw has been brought in to replace fellow Queenslander Burns, while the consistent Peter Handscomb and enigmatic Nic Maddinson will occupy the number five and six slots. Feisty gloveman Matthew Wade will play his first test since 2013 in place of Nevill while the recalled Jackson Bird and swing specialist Chadd Sayers will fight it out to take Mennie’s spot in the starting XI.
Despite going wicketless in Hobart and then in the subsequent Sheffield Shield match Nathan Lyon has been retained despite murmurs that he may be swapped out for state teammate Stephen O’Keefe.
Meanwhile South Africa are on a high after claiming their third consecutive test series win in Australia despite being without regular captain AB de Villiers for the entire series and missing pace king Dale Steyn since day two in Perth. In de Villiers’ absence stand-in skipper Faf du Plessis has lead with distinction, while Steyn’s replacement Kyle Abbott claimed man of the match honours at Bellerive Oval after picking up match figures of 9/118.
Abbott worked effectively in tandem with fellow quicks Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada which ensured that frontline spinner Keshav Maharaj was only required to send down seven overs for the match. With the bat Hashim Amla weathered the early storm to return to form with a typically elegant 47, however the real stars were again keeper-batsman Quinton de Kock who struck a sublime 104 and middle-order mainstay Temba Bavuma who compiled a determined 74, batting for nearly four-and-a-half hours on a testing pitch.
However the struggles of opener Stephen Cook continued, dismissed for 23 which is his highest score on the tour so far and had the series been on the line he may well have found himself out of the side, however it is expected he will be given one last chance, leaving Rilee Rossouw to cool his heels on the sidelines.
Four wickets in last weekend’s tour match to chinaman Tabraiz Shamsi lead to suggestions that he could push Maharaj for the spinner’s spot in Adelaide, however after such a convincing victory it seems most likely that the Proteas will go in unchanged.
The only issue for the visitors could be a shoulder compliant suffered by Philander but with Steyn already absent, the canny seamer is expected to brush off the injury and once again lead the attack in Adelaide.
Conditions in last year’s day-night test at the Adelaide Oval varied quite significantly from the norm with no side able to pass 225 as the ball swung prodigiously. However the pink ball seemed to trouble the batsmen less in the opening round of this season’s Sheffield Shield, albeit in games played at other grounds. If Nathan Lyon was to choose a ground in which to recapture his form he’d probably select Adelaide, given that he has taken 27 wickets in five tests here, including the only ten-wicket haul of his career.
*Australia have now lost their last five tests with the narrowest margin of defeat 106 runs.
*Australia have won only four of their last ten tests at home.
*Australia have passed 250 only twice in their last ten innings’.
*South Africa have lost only one of their past seven tests.
*South Africa have conceded 250 only once in their past seven innings’.
South Africa’s dominance has been belatedly acknowledged by the punters with the Proteas going in as favourites ahead of the Australians with the draw a distant third option.
Given the way the series has played out it seems a simple question of whether South Africa offer requisite value as you certainly don’t want to be with the other two options. While a raft of team changes may rejuvenate the hosts, their batting has been so flaky over a considerable period and their much-vaunted record at home has been quietly eroded.
Although a big price in relation to the other two selections, the draw is also an unattractive proposition when you consider that the Hobart test lasted less than 200 overs and both sides continue to exhibit a far greater strength in the field than they do with the bat.
So are the Proteas a backable price? When you consider that they have a selection of batsmen in form, a pace battery that has completely overwhelmed the opposition and a long history of success on Australian shores it’s hard to argue that they shouldn’t be odds-on. The only possible question mark is an unfamiliarity with the pink ball and day-night setting for this test, however if the ball behaves anything like it did last year then this will only enhance their advantage.
I think the South Africans win this match more often than not which is why I’m willing to wager that they will inflict a first ever home whitewash defeat on the Aussies and secure a 3-0 series victory.
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