If the No.1 spot on the ICC Test rankings had been riding on the India series, here they will be fighting to retain the No.2 ranking by avoiding a 3-0 or 4-0 loss. Besides, South Africa, for all their success away, have never beaten Australia at home in a series, and it is a statistic they desperately want to change.
Both teams are high on confidence in the format and given that both have storied fast bowlers, it could get fiery. South Africa came out 2-1 winners after a tight tussle with India, with their pace attack, even without the injured Dale Steyn, using pace and bounce and seam movement to spectacular effect. They will hope recent reverses in the limited-overs games will not be carried over into the Tests, and will be glad for the return from injuries of Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock.
Australia, meanwhile, have enjoyed a period of rest after the Ashes against England, which they dominated 4-0. During that series, the pitches didn’t offer much for the quicks; their fast bowlers have since thrived in the movement on offer in the one tour game they played against South Africa A.
The last time the teams squared up in red-ball cricket was in 2016 in the Australian summer when du Plessis’ men left some scars with a 2-1 win.
As the home side’s Dean Elgar said: “There is a lot of pride at stake, but in saying that there is a lot of respect between the two teams.”
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First Published: February 28, 2018, 12:41 PM IST