The series stands at 1-1 after Australia and South Africa both managed to beat each other in successive Tests. The series has been marred by indiscipline and incidents that undermine the spirit of the game, and the quality of cricket on display. Both teams, and especially the captains, will need to squeeze the best out of their players amidst the heat on the pitch.
Rabada and Starc both return to their respective teams after the former had his ban overturned and the latter beat his fitness issues. Whoever wins this Test will have a major advantage going into the fourth one.
Steven Smith (c), David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers.
Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Willem Mulder, Lungisani Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.
Where the teams stand
Australia has some issues they will want to address before the third Test. Their top order has been frustrating to watch. Bancroft, Warner, and Khawaja have all gotten off to good starts regularly, but failed to convert them into a big knock. The highest score among them has been 75 by Khawaja, with some 60s by the openers. The top three need to utilize the starts they get and avoid throwing them away. The middle order has not been the most stable, and the first three need to get as many runs as possible. Mitchell Marsh has been the most promising batsman in the middle order. He has zealously protected his wicket and has amassed scores like 96 and 45. The latter might not sound like a big score, but it is not far from the average of the highest scores by any Australian batsman. These four batsmen will be the ones to watch out for in the Test.
Starc being cleared to play the third Test is a huge relief for the Australians. They would've had to play the uncapped Jhye Richardson if Starc missed the Test. Australia’s bowling attack is looking quite solid with Starc, Hazelwood, Cummins, and Lyon the usual four premier bowlers. Marsh and Smith can both bowl part-time pace and spin respectively as well. The visitors will need their bowlers to be at their best with an unreliable batting lineup yet to find stability.
South Africa have practically been carried single-handedly by AB Deviliers with the bat. The explosive right-hander heroically endured during the first innings disaster during the inaugural Test. He also scored a century in the second Test, the second one of the series after Markram hit the first. de Kock, Amla, and Elgar have all contributed with half centuries as well, but the batting has generally looked shaky against a strong Australian bowling attack. du Plessis has been the most disappointing so far. His top score this series stands at 15 in four innings, which is simply not good enough. Elgar and Amla too have not been effective besides the one innings in the second Test. The Proteas will need to work on their batting more to have the best chance of winning.
The solitary victory earned by the Proteas was largely due to the effort of their bowlers, especially Kagiso Rabada. The pacer has faced intense scrutiny for allegedly elbowing Smith, and a showdown between the two is inevitable during the third Test. Ngidi also picked up five wickets, showcasing more of the potential he expressed during the series against India. Maharaj was efficient in the first Test, giving South Africa three proven threats in the attack. Philander is also bound to be successful at some point. The Proteas have a potent attack that has not fully actualised it’s capabilities as a unit, but they will need to do so soon.
Australia win. The team has a much better balance to their squad, and their players are performing with greater consistency than the Proteas’.