Sri Lanka, trailing 2-0, will want its batsmen to step up for final Test in Johannesburg
The match will be a particularly significant one for Hashim Amla, who will join seven of his countrymen before him in an elite group of those who have represented the Proteas in 100 Test matches.
Amla, the most experienced player in a team missing the injured AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, has not had the best series, by his own high standards. In his last five Tests, he has scored 195 runs at an average of 21.66, with his career average dropping to below 50 for the first time in four years. He will be hoping to make his milestone match a memorable one at a ground where he has hit two of his 25 Test centuries.
South Africa won the first two matches comfortably, in Port Elizabeth by 206 runs and in Cape Town by 282 runs, thanks to first-innings centuries by Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock, and a five-wicket haul for Kagiso Rabada in Sri Lanka’s second bat.
However, Faf du Plessis’ side will be forced to make a change to a successful combination. Kyle Abbott, the pacer, announced his decision to sign a Kolpak contract to play county cricket in England, which meant he could no longer represent the international side. Duanne Olivier. the uncapped fast bowler, was called up to join the squad. Abbott's likely replacement in the playing XI, though, is Wayne Parnell, the left-arm fast bowler.
Parnell, who recently took six wickets and hit a century in a domestic game for Cape Cobras, will link up with Vernon Philander for the new ball.
The pitch, which traditionally offers fast bowlers a lot of assistance, will pose another big challenge to the Sri Lankan batsmen, who have not been able to impose themselves so far. They have managed only two individual half-centuries in the first two Tests, with the seaming moment proving a challenge so far. Angelo Mathews, the captain, has been the side’s most successful batsman, accumulating 149 runs in four innings with a highest of 59.
“We’d love a clean sweep,” said Stephen Cook, for whom it is a home ground. “We have just come from a team meeting where we have spoken about the importance of being 2-0 up and finishing the job. We spoke about it in Australia and didn’t do the business after having done the whitewash in the one-day series. It’s first and foremost on the guys’ minds, we know the conditions have suited us and we have been playing some good cricket and when opportunities present themselves to dominate like this that is what we are looking to do.”
Rain, however, could put a damper on South Africa’s plans.
“Generally here, the wicket, particularly this season, there have been a few cracks around,” explained Cook. “Especially when it has been drier, so maybe this moist weather will keep them together a bit more. There ought to be the usual pace and bounce, it might be a little bit slow to start the game but generally day two and day three it tends to quicken up.”
South Africa (likely): Faf du Plessis (captain), Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Wayne Parnell, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada.
Sri Lanka (from): Angelo Mathews (captain), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Upul Tharanga, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep, Kusal Perera, Dilruwan Perera, Dushmantha Chameera, Vikum Sanjaya.
Please click here to review the match in full in the ICC Match Centre