CrumbsPlenty on the line at Newlands

2009-03-18 00:00

IN what is technically a dead rubber, there has been a significant amount of heat in the build-up to today’s third Test between South Africa and Australia at Newlands.

The loss of Graeme Smith at Kingsmead was always going to be a major blow for South Africa. But the relentless to-ing and fro-ing since the captain’s enforced absence has illustrated just how much he will be missed.

Imraan Khan and Ashwell Prince will open the batting, one a debutant and the other a reluctant novice in the art of facing the new ball.

Even after plundering 254 off a more than useful Titans line-up last week, Prince maintained that he craved the quiet comfort of the middle-order.

His refusal to accept the captaincy, as the official next in command, has also raised questions about his temperament.

Jacques Kallis, the “caretaker captain”, has denied any problems arising from Prince’s tough stance.

“I think he had his reasons and his views why he didn’t want it,” said Kallis. “Obviously he was offered it first and he turned it down and then they phoned me and asked me if I would do it for one Test match.

“There’s no issue there. I’ve had a chat with him and there’s no problem. The guys respect his point of view and the fact that I’ve taken over as captain.”

The captaincy issue is just one of South Africa’s problems, as they also have changes in their attack, too, with Albie Morkel replacing his wayward sibling Morne.

Australia are suddenly the settled side, despite a host of new caps at the start of the series, and they even have the pleasant headache of whether or not to include a wrist-spinner in Bryce McGain.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting said his team were keen to maintain the standard they set in the first two Tests.

“We’ve had those three or four days away, but since we’ve been back together as a group everything has been focused on being as well-prepared as we can be for this game,” he said.

“One thing I don’t want to do is get too carried away by what we’ve achieved. We’ve won our last three Test matches in a row against South Africa. It’s important that we forget that but remember the things that have made us play at the level we have.”

Australia have the momentum, having won three Tests against their hosts, but South Africa have plenty of motivation to prove several naysayers wrong.

Most of the squad were involved in domestic matches over the weekend, with varying degrees of success.

Their lack of match practice certainly played a part in their loss at the Wanderers, and they have been playing catch-up ever since.

Without their captain, and with a brand spanking new pair opening the attack, South Africa will have to start well to win this final Test of an enthralling summer.

“We have got to do what they did in Sydney,” Kallis pointed out.

“They turned it around there, and we need to do the same here.”


South Africa: (likely) 1 Imraan Khan, 2 Ashwell Prince, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis (capt), 5 AB de Villiers, 6 JP Duminy, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Albie Morkel, 9 Paul Harris, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Makhaya Ntini.

Australia: (possible) 1 Phillip Hughes, 2 Simon Katich, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Michael Clarke, 6 Marcus North, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Peter Siddle, 10 Bryce McGain, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus.

TV times: From 10am on Supersport 2 and SABC 3.

Roebuck on the third Test, page 22

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