Pace attack will be key in Perth battle
Test cricket will always be the ultimate challenge. In the test arena there is no place to hide and it will always be the true measure of a player.
The recently completed test match between Australia and South Africa in Adelaide was just another measure of that. Fortunes fluctuated over the five days. Both teams gave it their absolute all. Individuals pushed themselves to breaking point and the match represented all that is good about test cricket.
After day one many questions here were doing the rounds and rightly so. Was it the right thing for CSA to agree to an itinerary that included a break between test matches of nine days without a practice match in between?
Should the South African players have been given four days off unsupervised? Should all players be subjected to the same rest periods? Is it correct to say that preparation isn't a perfect science? Should Gary Kirsten be able to leave his charges unattended during an overseas tour and return home? Could anything have been done to avoid the sudden spurt of injuries?
After the South African heroics of the last days those questions will be left to be pondered on by the coaching staff and the management team for another day.
For the moment all the focus from a South African point of view will be to win the final test in Perth and to clinch the three-match series.
There is a three-day turn around between the two test matches. Just enough time for one practice and a short recovery period. Winning the match will ensure that the number one ranking remains intact.
In order to do so South Africa will be determined to bring their 'A' game to this all important contest. It is fair to say that during the first two test matches there have been some brilliant individual performances, but as a team the Proteas haven't been at their best. The bowling, in particular, has been the area of concern.
It is crucial that South Africa start well in Perth. It is also essential that the Proteas select the right combination for the match and the prevailing conditions. This will be determined to a large degree by the fitness of some key players.
The mind-set of the Australians after the Adelaide test won't be good. They will know only too well that they had their best chance in the second test to beat South Africa. They played just about as well as they could. Despite all that, due to the fighting spirit of the number one team in the world, they were denied.
The Aussies have their injury and selection problems as well. Probably more so than the Proteas.
They are also very aware that the vaunted South African pace attack hasn't fired as a unit yet. Perth will provide the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander with conditions that they should find to their liking.
There will be pace, bounce and movement. Judging by what we have seen so far the South African pace attack in full flow should be a lot more threatening than that of their counterparts. It is in this area where the battle will be won or lost.
I tipped the Proteas to win the series from the outset. After getting out of jail in Adelaide I am even more sure that they will do so now.