South Africa have hardly put a foot wrong in the two Tests so far and the scoreline is a fair reflection of how the contest has unfolded. Having already taken a 2-0 lead in the three-match series, the hosts are brimming with confidence and will be eager to make it 3-0 when they face Pakistan in third and final Test at Wanderers in Johannesburg on Friday (January 11).There are a few forced changes in the South African squad though which might make that task harder. For starters, they will be without their regular captain Faf du Plessis, who has been suspended for one Test for maintaining a slow over-rate in the second Test at Newlands. Opener Dean Elgar, who has led South Africa just once before, back in 2017, has been named stand-in captain.
More than the leadership, South Africa will miss du Plessis the batsman. The 34-year-old, after an underwhelming 2018 started off his new year in style with a fighting century in the second Test and would have harboured hopes of continuing the run.
Apart from du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Aiden Markram are also doubtful for the third Test with both nursing injuries. While Amla was forced to retire hurt during South Africa’s second innings after being struck on the elbow by a rising Mohammad Amir delivery, Markram suffered a thigh injury and did not come out to open the innings in the second dig.
In such a scenario, uncapped Zubayr Hamza is likely to fill in for du Plessis in the middle-order while uncapped batman Pieter Malan too has been added as cover for Markram. Both Hamza and Malan come into the side on the back of a mountain of runs in domestic cricket.
“If given the chance that would be great, I have really enjoyed my time so far, the training has been intense and everyone has been welcoming. I have felt comfortable in the team surrounding, if given the chance I am looking forward to it. There is a lot of excitement at the moment,” Hamza had said ahead of the Test.
While there might be changes in the batting order, the bowling looks as strong as ever. All of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Duanne Olivier have played a role in the series and with the Wanderers surface likely to aid pacers, the quartet will be looking to carry on with the good work. South Africa went without a spinner in Cape Town and it remains to be seen if they continue with that tactic.
For Pakistan, this has so far been a tough tour. No Asian side has had things easy in South Africa and Pakistan have suffered the same fate. The bowlers have done a fair job in the two Tests but a four-bowler strategy coupled with the failure of some of their key batsmen has brought about their downfall.
The bowlers did exceedingly well in the first Test but in the second were thwarted by a staunch Du Plessis and Temba Bavuma, both of who took the game away from the visitors. But, the major issue so far in the series has been the batting.
While there have been individual shades of brilliance, collectively Pakistan have failed to fire as a batting unit. Shan Masood and Babar Azam are the only ones that have looked solid against the South African bowlers but the big hundreds have still been missing. Asad Shafiq too scored a half-century in the second innings of the Newlands Test but it has been the collective fight which has been lacking.
With just one game to go, Pakistan will be keen to sign off on a high and build some momentum with the ODI series on the horizon.
The surface at Wanderers has traditionally been excellent for the pacers and it is expected to behave no different this time around as well. The temperatures have been on the lower side in Johannesburg and there are a few thunderstorms on the radar though they are unlikely to affect the game.
South Africa: Dean Elgar (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Zubayr Hamza, Pieter Malan, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Dane Paterson, Vernon Philander
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi
First Published: January 10, 2019, 5:20 PM IST