Cook batting for his Test career in Adelaide

Stephen Cook (Getty)
Stephen Cook (Getty)

Cape Town - The series is done and dusted, but a 3-0 whitewash is still a huge driving force for the Proteas heading into the final Test in Adelaide starting on November 24. 

Captain Faf du Plessis has said as much. 

Motivation for this South African group doesn't seem to be a problem, and there would undoubtedly be a sweet satisfaction accompanying a 5-0 ODI series whitewash at home and then a 3-0 triumph in the Tests. 

It is a good time to be a South African cricketer, but for one man the series finale could be a matter of life and death in terms of his international future. 

Stephen Cook, with just 5 Test matches to his name, has struggled in Australia. 

He failed in all three of his warm-up innings before the start of the series and he has scored just 35 runs in his three Test knocks at an average of 11.66

Cook's Test average now sits at 31.87, and under normal circumstances he would surely be given longer to cement his place in the side. 

But these are not quite normal circumstances. 

The return of AB de Villiers is the major threat to Cook's place. 

De Villiers has been sidelined with an elbow injury, but is expected to be fit for the three Test series against Sri Lanka at home over the festive season. 

Proteas convenor of selectors Linda Zondi has also made it clear that De Villiers will resume the Test captaincy upon his return despite Du Plessis' dominance in the role. 

With that little conundrum now resolved, the brains trust will need to figure out how the top order will be reshuffled to accommodate De Villiers. 

As it stands, Cook is the likeliest to make way. 

That comes with complications in itself, given that De Villiers would ideally bat in the middle order. 

It means that the Proteas would have to back another make-shift opener. 

Temba Bavuma's name has been mentioned as a possible option - his compact approach and discipline suggesting that he would be a capable and reliable answer to the new ball. 

But Bavuma has settled in so nicely at No 6 that it may make more sense to just leave him there. He is oozing confidence at the moment and is starting to believe, by the looks of it, that he belongs on the Test arena. Is it worth messing with that right now? 

Quinton de Kock, as I have said before, should not be an opening option based on the fact that he is the wicketkeeper and that he provides the perfect link between top and lower order at No 7.

That, it seems, leaves De Villiers and Hashim Amla as the potential openers for Sri Lanka. 

Both are so talented that there is no question they could perform the role, but based on the fact that Amla opens in both T20 and ODI cricket and that he has been SA's No 3 for so long and exposed to the new ball countless times, I would go for him. 

That would leave a top order of: Elgar, Amla, Du Plessis, De Villiers, Duminy, Bavuma, De Kock ... doesn't make for bad reading, does it? 

Of course, that all does little for Cook. 

He has shown flashes of what he can offer, but has ultimately looked well short of confidence. His dismissal in Hobart was a perfect illustration of that. 

Rilee Rossouw is still waiting for a Test debut, but Cook must be given another chance. 

He could make things really interesting, of course, if he delivers in what will be South Africa's first ever day/night Test. 

A Cook century under the lights would give convenor of selectors Linda Zondi and his team a real headache. 

How do you drop a guy who has just made a century? 

Cook had to wait a long, long time for a Test chance and it would be so cruel if it was all over after just 6 matches. 

He will turn 34 the day after the third Test ends and is the oldest player on tour. Age is not on his side, and only runs can save him now. 

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