A victory in the third and final test match against India at the Wanderers will see the South African cricket team come to within a decimal point of the visitors at the top of the International Cricket Council’s test rankings.
The Proteas have never beaten the Indians 3-0 in a series before, but that is exactly what the South Africans will be looking to do in Johannesburg starting on Wednesday.
The Proteas are, by no means, viewing this Test as a dead-rubber. Not only does South Africa have an opportunity to record a rare clean sweep against India and threaten their No.: 1 ranking, but the Proteas also have to maintain their momentum for the four match home Test series against Australia in March.
Captain Faf du Plessis says that have they requested a typical Wanderers wicket with its characteristic pace and bounce and alluded to possibly fielding an 11 without spinner Keshav Maharaj, which would give the selectors the option of playing one of the all-rounders in the squad – either Andile Phehlukwayo or Theunis de Bruyn.
“It’s an option. It was an option in Centurion as well because it generally does spin there as well and then we find the opposite. So, you just have to make sure you keep your options open. The wicket does look like a normal Wanderers wicket, but just even tomorrow morning, just see what the pitch looks like. Kesh is a talented bowler and we are lucky to have him.”
India, who will be scrambling to avoid a series whitewash, will be encouraged by the fact that they have never lost a Test at the Wanderers, having won one and drawn three since 1992.
But for Du Plessis, the difference between the two sides could once again be the contributions of the batsmen.
“As I said after the second Test, the difference is that there were more batters contribution to partnerships. That’s a key factor under conditions to get and string a partnership together. Both teams have taken 20 wickets. So, the onus is on the batting partnerships,” said Du Plessis.
There is no doubt that an encounter between the top two tests playing nations in the world will provide for some mouth-watering cricket, but with late afternoon Highveld thunderstorms expected on four of the five days, fans will have to pray that it’s not the weather gods who will have the last say.