Cape Town - If the trend at the WACA in recent history is
any yardstick, South Africa and Australia are unlikely to play out a Test
The three-match tussle may be deadlocked at 0-0 after two,
but there must be every chance that it will go decisively one way or the other
in the keenly-awaited Perth climax from Friday (04:30 SA time).
Only one of the last 10 Tests at the famous venue, with its
legendarily pacy track, has ended in stalemate and all of the last three have
gone the way of the Baggy Greens.
Australia v South Africa 2nd Test Day 5 Highlights
The lone draw, interestingly, was when the Proteas played
there the second-last time in 2005/06 and Jacques Rudolph’s unbeaten second-innings
century - how the embattled left-hander, his berth probably under threat, would
love one again - played a key role in salvaging a backs-to-the-wall stalemate
not dissimilar to the one earlier this week in Adelaide.
Graeme Smith’s side have altogether happier memories of the
last meeting at the WACA, which saw them go 1-0 up en route to a maiden 2-1
series triumph Down Under, in 2008/09.
The South Africans remorselessly chased down a record ask of
414, anchored by tons from both Smith and AB de Villiers, with all of six
wickets in hand.
Since then the Aussies have re-established a strong winning
habit at the ground, however.
Their last Test at the WACA saw them thrash India by an
innings and 37 runs in January this year, although they had the unpredictable,
big-hitting David Warner to thank for roughly half of their runs (180) in a
first-knock total of 369.
Before that, they beat England by 267 runs in the 2010/11
Ashes Test - the Baggy Greens’ only success in a home series surrendered 3-1 - with
left-arm thunderbolt Mitchell Johnson bagging nine scalps for man-of-the-match
Johnson has been recalled to the extended Aussie squad for
this high-stakes clash with the Proteas; he has a stunning track record at the
WACA, with 30 wickets in only four Tests at an average of 18.13.
Expect both teams to at least consider going against the
grain of overall Test cricket wisdom by not playing a specialist spinner - they
have not been especially influential in Perth in recent years.
But when the Proteas romped to their famous victory on the
last tour, left-arm spinner Paul Harris did play a pretty fulsome role in the
game, bowling plenty of overs, keeping the runs in check and also grabbing five
wickets across the two Aussie knocks.
It may improve the case for Robin Peterson, who can also
usefully hold a bat, to turn out this time.
If he can avoid haemorrhaging runs to the awful extent Imran
Tahir did in Adelaide, his presence in a holding role, particularly in the
Aussie first innings, might well free up someone like Dale Steyn to bowl
aggressively and not be too fearful of conceding boundaries fairly regularly.
Long-range weather prospects look good - there is some rain
anticipated for the two lead-up days, but then clear skies and warm to hot
temperatures for the duration of the Test itself.
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