Stage is set for a Cape Town classic with South Africa on a roll against Australia

BACK IN THE ATTACK: Kagiso Rabada will take the new ball for the South Africans. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 March 2018
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Stage is set for a Cape Town classic with South Africa on a roll against Australia

LONDON: With Kagiso Rabada cleared to play in Cape Town after a two-match ban was rescinded, we can expect another white-knuckle contest at Newlands.
Steve Smith’s pre-match comments suggested Australia are far from happy about the Rabada reprieve, and they will need no further motivation at a venue where they have won four of six Tests since South Africa returned to the international fold in the 1990s. We look at five things to watch for from the crucial third Test.

THE PHILANDER SHOW
Three of South Africa’s greatest bowlers — Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock — have taken more than 50 wickets in Cape Town. But even their numbers look ordinary next to Vernon Philander’s haul from his eight Tests at Newlands. His 47 wickets have cost just 16.34 each, and that includes a spell of five for 15 in his debut Test, when Australia were skittled for just 47. Philander has been largely peripheral this series, taking five for 175, but expect that to change at a ground where he has been known to hoop it round corners.

NO MORKEL SWANSONG?
Until Rabada won his appeal on Tuesday, Morne Morkel was in line for a Newlands recall. Faf du Plessis, the South African captain, has not ruled him out, but it would be staggering if the 21-year-old Lungi Ngidi was dropped after taking five for 75 in the victory in Port Elizabeth. Morkel has done yeoman service for the Proteas and needs just three wickets for 300, but Ngidi represents the future. Morkel’s ordinary record in Cape Town — 35 wickets at 32 in 10 Tests — may well also count against him.

LYON NEEDS TO ROAR
So far, the biggest headlines about Nathan Lyon in this series have related to his pathetic celebration after the run-out of AB de Villiers in Durban. Lyon is one of Australia’s self-styled enforcers on the field, but he needs to do far more with the ball. Keshav Maharaj, South Africa’s specialist spinner, has taken nearly twice as many wickets (11 to six) in the series, with Lyon barely a factor after the first innings in Durban. In recent years, his consistency has allowed Australia to go into games with a four-man attack. When he is off-kilter, the pacers’ workload goes into the red zone.

TIME FOR WARNER?
David Warner has not had a bad series, with two half-centuries in the two Tests. But those were overshadowed by his behavior in Durban, and there would be no better way to change the narrative than to replicate his performances of four years ago, when innings of 135 and 145 inspired an emphatic Australian victory. Warner averages nearly 70 in South Africa, more than he does at home, and an Australia side that has yet to score a hundred this series will look to him to set the tone.

CAN AMLA TURN THINGS AROUND?
Since scores of 201, 109 and 96 against England in early 2016, Hashim Amla has found runs hard to come by against top opposition. He averaged 47.35 in 2017, but his three hundreds came against Sri Lanka, poor travelers of late, and Bangladesh (two), who had barely any experience of South African conditions. In five Tests against India and Australia in 2018, he has made four half-centuries, but the mammoth innings that once defined him have proved elusive.

SMITH SHOCKED AT RETURN OF RABADA
Steve Smith has criticized the decision to overturn a ban on South African fast bowler Kagiso Rabada for making physical contact with him.
Smith said that a “line in the sand” had been drawn regarding physical contact and said he was surprised he had not been asked his opinion during the appeal hearing.
Having been banned for the remaining two Tests in the series for brushing against Smith’s shoulder after taking his wicket in the second Test, Rabada was cleared to play in the third Test starting today in Cape Town after a successful appeal.
Australia spin bowler Nathan Lyon had said the team had “no dramas” with the decision, but Smith told cricket.com.au website: “I certainly think he (Rabada) bumped me a little bit harder than it actually looked on the footage.”
Although Smith claimed “it didn’t bother me too much,” he went on to say, “they’ve obviously decided what’s deliberate contact and what’s not and apparently it wasn’t.
“The ICC have set the standard, haven’t they? There was clearly contact out in the middle.
“I certainly won’t be telling my bowlers to go out there and after you take a wicket go and get in their space. I don’t think that is on and part of the game. But the standard has been set.”
Rabada was initially given three demerit points for the incident in Port Elizabeth by match referee Jeff Crowe, triggering an automatic two-Test ban.
But judicial commissioner Michael Heron said he was not completely satisfied that the contact was deliberate and reduced the charge to acting against the spirit of the game, imposing a one-point penalty, which took Rabada one point below the threshold for the ban.


Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

Updated 23 March 2019
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Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

SHARJAH: Aaron Finch's fine century drove Australia to a convincing eight-wicket win over a new-look Pakistan in the first one-day international on Friday.
The Austraian skipper scored 116 off 135 balls for his 12th one-day international century that helped his team overhaul the 281-run target in 49 overs on a flat Sharjah stadium pitch.
The win gives Australia the lead in the five-match series and has come on the back of their 3-2 series win in India earlier this month.
Finch's match-winning knock overshadowed Haris Sohail's maiden one-day hundred (101 not out) which helped Pakistan to 280-5 in their 50 overs.
The 32-year-old smashed Shoaib Malik for a huge six towards deep mid-wicket to complete his century -- his first since June last year against England at Chester-Le-Street -- off 120 balls.
Finch, who knocked four sixes and eight boundaries, added an innings-building 172 runs for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh who scored an unbeaten 91 off 102 balls with four boundaries and two sixes.
With 46 needed Finch became Mohammad Abbas's maiden wicket but Peter Handscomb hit 30 not out to help Marsh cross the line.
Finch and Marsh came together after opener Usman Khawaja fell for 24 to medium pacer Faheem Ashraf, the only other success Pakistan's new-look bowling attack could achieve.
Pakistan rested six of their key players including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup starting in UK from May 30.
But the young and inexperienced Pakistan led by Malik proved no match for Australia, who are on a roll after their win in India earlier this month.
Left-hander Sohail, who reached 1,000 runs in his 27th one-day international when on 40, anchored Pakistan's innings, adding 98 for the third wicket with Umar Akmal who made a 50-ball 48 in his first international match for two years.
Sohail took a single to complete his hundred in the last over, finishing with six boundaries and a six.
Pakistan had handed one-day debuts to opener Shan Masood and Abbas -- who have played 15 and 14 Tests respectively.
Masood put on 35 in an opening stand with Imam-ul-Haq (17) before off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Imam in the seventh over, caught and bowled.
Masood, who hit five boundaries in his 62-ball 40, was then bowled by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile who finished with 1-38 in his 10 overs.
Umar smashed three sixes in one Jhye Richardson over but fell one short of his half century.
Malik fell for 11 and Ashraf and Imad Wasim scored 28 each.
Wasim hit four boundaries and a six during his 13-ball unbeaten knock, helping Pakistan to 55 runs in the last five overs.
Sunday's second ODI is also being played in Sharjah, with the third in Abu Dhabi (March 27) and the last two in Dubai (March 29 and 31).