Mark Salter offers five points of discussion ahead of the third and final Test, at the Wanderers.
THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
The big talking point of the week is whether to go with four seamers on what is expected to be a lively track. Ground officials have gone all coy, saying they could yet give it a heavy trim and change its nature. But what’s the point? The Proteas have been pleased with the tracks they were given in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, where a covering of grass assisted their attack, and it could have even more of an effect at the Wanderers. Add to that the possibility of rain shortening the playing time and I would think they would want to get this over and done with as soon as possible. The Sri Lankans have not responded well to pace and bounce, so hit them with it.
BREAKING IN GENTLY
One of the worries about using four seamers is that two of them are relatively inexperienced. Seems bizarre that we can refer to the 21-year-old Kagiso Rabada as a veteran, but he is comfortable in his space. Wayne Parnell has only four Tests to his name, and Duanne Olivier has none. But there’s got to be a first time and the quick Wanderers is user-friendly. Management is haunted by the memory that the last time they used four seamers here was against England and Chris Morris and Hardus Viljoen struggled with line, length and rhythm. But do the Proteas have any choice? Surely they cant expect Keeshav Maharaj to hold up one end indefinitely? Go for it. They always have Temba Bavuma waiting for an opportunity…
THE PERFECT MATCH
When the Proteas completed their victory over the Sri Lanka at Newlands, and sealed the series, Faf du Plessis described it as ‘the perfect match’ on the grounds that the Proteas had dominated throughout (first session excepted). After the PE Test, he admitted that the batting unit had not quite clicked, and that was surely the case in Newlands too. You can never describe a batting display in which only two players went above fifty (although when they did, they went big) as ‘perfect’. Once again, individuals stepped up when needed, which is commendable, but we are still waiting for the big total coming from the top six.
100: THE MAGIC NUMBER
What are the odds on Hashim Amla scoring a hundred in his hundredth Test? Goodness knows, he deserves it as another accolade in a huge collection of great displays. He is due a big one because he is looking increasing comfortable. Only seven players have achieved this feat, the last being Graeme Smith. Except his hundred in his 100th Test wasn’t for South Africa. Test statistics were horribly messed up when they awarded Test status to the World XI match he captained against Australia in 2005. So while it was his 100h Test, it was his 99th Test for South Africa. His 10oth Test came at Leeds, where he did indeed score a hundred … in two innings of 52.
Hundred in 100th Test:
MC Cowdrey 104, England v Australia 1968
Javad Miandad 145 Pakistan v India 1989
CG Greenidge 149 West Indies v England 1990
AJ Stewart 105 England v West indies 2000
Inzamam-ul-Haq 184 Pakistan v Indian, 2005
RT Ponting, 120 & 143 Australia v South Africa 2006
GC Smith 131 South Africa v England 2012
REBUILDING THE TEAM
I wonder what the effect will be of Kyle Abbott’s ham-fisted departure from the team. His teammates were shocked to be confronted with the news midway through the Test because the news had broken overnight and Abbott had to ‘fess up. He had been hoping to break it more gently when the second Test was done and dusted. Abbott was followed in short order by Rilee Rossouw and David Wiese, so it is possible that those on the field may be wondering who is next. Du Plessis had moulded a band of brothers on the tour to Australia and trust was broken. I suspect that he will raise this team above the smog through sheer force of personality.
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