Thus far in the four test cricket series Australia and South Africa are deadlocked at a win apiece heading into the third test. The actual cricket, however, seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind heading to Cape Town.
With Kagiso Rabada banned for two tests, and David Warner, Nathan Lyon and Quinton de Kock all officially sanctioned, hopefully we can now focus on the game. As unlikely as this is to happen, it is unfortunate that all the off-field drama is overshadowing such a tight series between the two best test cricket sides in the world at the moment.
So, with that plea to stop with the juvenile behaviour out of the way, let’s look at how the two teams will line up.
In a series featuring most of the best fast bowlers in the world, as well as the world’s best spinner in Lyon, it’s not surprising that the batters have been struggling. Any one of the fast bowlers from either side would walk straight into the team for any other country.
The South Africans have the advantage of home pitches, and are blatant in their efforts to ensure pitches favour them. Fortunately for Australia, their bowlers are fast enough to be lethal in any conditions. Besides, pitches that favour South African bowlers also favour Australian spearhead Mitchell Starc.
Rabada was by far the best bowler in Port Elizabeth, so his suspension gives the more balanced Australian attack the edge.
So far in this series the best batsman has been, as it is so often in South Africa, AB de Villiers. He scored an unbeaten 126 to push South Africa to a commanding lead in Port Elizabeth, to go with his 71 not out in the first test. It seems that the only way to stop de Villiers in the first innings is to get rid of his partners!
Australian captain Steve Smith, however, is the best batsman in the world at the moment by a country mile and he hasn’t really fired yet. He’s also the only player who wouldn’t be happy to “only” get 56 in the first innings in Durban.
Mitch Marsh has been the surprise hero of the tour for the Australians. He has carried on his Ashes form with the bat, and shown himself to be a genuine bowling option too. The batsmen seem very evenly matched so far.
Newlands in Cape Town has historically been a spin friendly pitch, which should favour Australia as Lyon is the better spinner. Newlands also almost always produces a result, so whichever side can stay in the longest should win. In the recent series with India the track deteriorated very quickly, so batting first will be a huge advantage.
Australia’s bowlers should get them over the line in Cape Town. It could be a very fast cricket match as well – the Newlands pitch combined with the skill of both bowling attacks could end the game inside 3 days!