With South Africa having officially won the series back in Hobart, Australia find themselves playing in a rare dead rubber in a series that has shattered their reputation as a dominant International outfit.
It’s not often that an opposition side can put Australia on the back foot on their home soil, believe it or not Faf du Plessis and South Africa have outplayed & outwitted their opposition where exposing individual weaknesses have played a huge key in the two tests. Somewhat in damage control now, Australian selectors have finally swung that ax on five players, although Voges was concussed in a domestic match his form had him on the chopping block. With three debutantes named in the playing XI (all of whom are batsman), this is by no means a certainty for success but certainly a step in the right direction for Australian cricket. Last years inaugural day/night test in Adelaide where Australia hosted New Zealand produced an excellent contest between bat & ball, especially during the night period where the ball hooped around adding an element of excitement. South Africa’s bowing attack are tailor-made for these conditions, especially when the dew sets in after the tea break where batting conditions will worsen throughout the night. Quinton de Kock hasn’t gone sub-fifty with the bat yet in the series, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla are both due for a big score and the rest of the team has been in sync ever since that second day in Perth. Australia are extremely unsettled now, adding three debutantes to a team with the likes of Matthew Wade and Jackson Bird returning to the side.
Key players – Australia
It’s been a rough run for Australia over the past four months to say the least, particularly for Steve Smith who’s been in the spotlight as captain during this horrific run. Losing the test series against Sri Lanka, followed by a horrific ODI series defeat in South Africa and now a home test series to forget. Despite all the negativity, Smith has personally given his all throughout this doom and gloom, in particular the Hobart test where he battled against shocking conditions and batting collapses. That would be enough to throw you completely off your game, but the Australian captain has shown that true Aussie-grit and has kept everything quite positive. It’s times like these where the captain needs to produce something special of his own to bolster the teams spirit, and Smith is a more than capable candidate here in Adelaide.
Fresh off figures of 6-89 in Hobart, Josh Hazlewood just keeps getting it done as Australia’s second seamer. Similar to the great Glenn McGrath, Hazlewood isn’t the fastest bowler in the team but his impact is just as impressive as anyone’s. It’s worth mentioning that he has dismissed Hashim Amla in every single innings in the series so far, just an example of the quality deliveries he’s sending down. With the Adelaide pitch reported to have a nice layer of grass on it, Hazlewood becomes one of the most pivotal players in the Australian side given his happy-knack of picking up wickets when required. What makes him a vital member of this bowling attack is his consistent line and length, arguably the most consistent Australian bowler in that department
One of those bowlers who’s impact with the ball usually determines how the rest of the team performs, Mitchell Starc returned to the test squad with an impressive four-wicket haul on the first day of the WACA test. It wasn’t until his figures took a beating in the second innings that shown signs that Starc was underdone, although he still managed to play back-to-back tests which indicated he was close to full fitness. Last year at this very venue (Adelaide), he was pushed to breaking point which ended his summer where he finished the game hobbling a run to win the math. Being a one-day specialist, Starc is expected to create havoc in that twilight/night period given his swing bowling ability as well as those toe-crushing yorkers seaming in at pace.
Key players – South Africa
South Africa had no hesitation in including Abbott for the second test under overcast conditions, taking him over Morne Morkel who was in line to replace Dale Steyn but was overlooked. It turned out to be a masterstroke, looking the part in his first over as he gave the Australians some real trouble with some terrific swing bowling that had every batsman at sea. Abbott finished the match with nine wickets and received player of the match for his outstanding efforts, especially his second innings where he claimed 6-77. If the 29-year-old was to replicate half of that performance in Adelaide, Australia could find themselves in trouble yet again.
The masterful-Hashim Amla has surprisingly struggled in the series so far, just an indication that not everything goes to script. His struggles all come down to one bowler, Josh Hazlewood. All bowlers tend to lose their line & length throughout an innings, unfortunately for Amla, Hazlewood has been right on the money every time those two have faced off. Sitting in the box seat, South Africa are in a prime position heading into the final match of the series and a big innings from Amla could possibly see the Proteas inflict a white wash. The pitch might be evenly contested throughout the game, but when Hashim Amla gets on a roll he’s unstoppable and can wear down a bowling attack which plays right into his hands.
We expected this young & talented quick to wreak havoc on the Australian batsmen, and he hasn’t disappointed. He troubled the home side in the first test at the WACA, making a mess of the Australians in the second innings which earned him man of the match honers. At just 21-years of age, Rabada already has four five-wicket hauls to his name as well as a ten-wicket haul having played just ten tests. Out of all the bowlers for both sides in this match, Rabada is probably the most likely to walk away with the best bowling figures in this third & final test. His action is simple yet generates pace and a variety of swing, something that all batsmen are vulnerable to.
Probable Starting XI’s
Australia (confirmed)- 1. David Warner 2. Matt Renshaw 3. Usman Khawaja 4. Steven Smith (c) 5. Peter Handscomb 6. Nic Maddinson 7. Matthew Wade (wk) 8. Mitchell Starc 9. Josh Hazlewood 10. Nathan Lyon 11. Jackson Bird.
South Africa – 1. Stephen Cook 2. Dean Elgar 3. Hashim Amla 4. JP Duminy 5. Faf du Plessis (c) 6. Temba Bavuma 7. Quinton de Kock (wk) 8. Vernon Philander 9. Kyle Abbott 10. Keshav Maharaj 11. Kagiso Rabada.
Zak Varik is an Australian columnist/writer who specializes in the sports category cricket. With over four years of experience covering all sorts of cricket tournaments around the world, Zak has gained extensive knowledge in International cricket as well as domestic.
“I’ve loved watching cricket since I was about 7 years old, my childhood hero was none other than Andrew “Roy” Symonds who probably enhanced my love of the game through the years”.
Zak is now an established writer for FCN (Fantasy Cricket News) and has also previously represented other Blogs during his time as a writer.