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SA v Aus, third Test: Proteas to nick series despite return of Baggy Green lynchpin Watson

Bob Willis - Bob Willis Posted 28th February 2014 view comments

A final Test decider between South Africa and Australia makes for an enticing prospect.

The visitors will probably want a pitch similar to Centurion, where they won the first game, but we will probably see a track like we witnessed at Port Elizabeth, where South Africa squared the series.

South African star AB de Villiers is in the runs but had a wicket-keeping blip in Port Elizabeth

South African star AB de Villiers is in the runs but had a wicket-keeping blip in Port Elizabeth

I'm not sure Newlands has a great history of abrasive pitches that help with reverse swing and the place is usually pretty good for batting, so we should see an even contest but one that South Africa, with their slightly deeper batting resources and momentum, might edge.

It will be tight, though, because various individuals from both sides have impressed me over the course of the two games, particularly Mitchell Johnson in the first Test and Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in the second with the ball.

Steyn has proved to be more deadly over a longer period of time, but I love seeing Johnson getting batsman hopping around.

Bob Willis
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AB de Villiers, meanwhile, has been the most composed batsman by far, even though Chris Rogers has showed his resilience for Australia and the lesser lights, if you like, of Shaun Marsh and JP Duminy have scored very important hundreds.

Shane Watson's probable return for Australia boosts their chances enormously, though, not just because of his proven batting but because of his skills with the ball as well, as he can bowl in a defensive or aggressive mode with aplomb.

Watson's presence will take a lot of the pressure off Peter Siddle, Johnson and the struggling Ryan Harris and I guess Alex Doolan will make way as although Marsh got a pair at Port Elizabeth, he got three figures at Centurion.

I'm sure Michael Clarke - despite his issues with Watson in the past - will like having his team-mate's experience back because the Australian skipper has now gone 11 innings without a Test match half-century.

Remarkable

I think Clarke's loss of form will be temporary but it is always a concern when your premier player's runs dry up - though that is not something De Villiers is experiencing at the moment following scores of 91, 48, 116 and 29 in this series.

Quinton de Kock played in Port Elizabeth and as a wickekeeping option he could extend De Villiers' career by taking the gloves and allowing him to concentrate on batting; that is something South Africa may consider down the line.

However, De Villiers' record whilst playing as a wicketkeeper is quite remarkable and he is more than adequate with the gloves, despite making one very significant error behind the stumps in Port Elizabeth.

De Kock, therefore, could make way for Alviro Petersen, who has recovered from a virus, but I would be loath to change a winning team although Petersen has established himself as Graham Smith's opening partner and modern Test sides love consistency.

Petersen scored a grand total of three runs in the first Test and does not seem a much better player than Dean Elgar, who opened in game two; he was badly exposed at Centurion and would not get in my South African XI.

South Africa will miss the variety offered by Wayne Parnell's left-arm pace and I don't think Ryan McLaren or Rory Kleinveldt are cut out for Test cricket and Kyle Abbott, despite his excellent first-class stats, is inexperienced.

But the Proteas will be helped by a big home crowd in Cape Town, in comparison to the disgracefully small number of people that turned up in Port Elizabeth.

The best Test side in the world should have got much better support than that!

Watch day one of the the third and deciding Test between South Africa and Australia live on Sky Sports 2 HD from 8.25am on Saturday.

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