Faf, Hash firing could kill off Aussies

2018-03-26 19:38
Hashim Amla (AP)

Cape Town - Call them the high-profile "missing links" in South Africa's two-match sequence of impressive Test conquest and the series against crisis-torn Australia as a whole.

Captain Faf du Plessis and veteran No 3 batsman Hashim Amla would ordinarily be expected to be influential figures in the advance to a 2-1 lead with just the Wanderers (from Friday) to play.

But the Proteas have got into the pound seats despite, far more than because of, the statistical contributions of these two seasoned figures.

Now they have a tantalising opportunity to create history at the Bullring by at least avoiding defeat in the finale - how you'd wish it to be a "grand" one for the broad sake of the game - to a controversial, sometimes bitter series, thus ensuring they become the first of eight post-isolation SA teams to achieve a home triumph over Australia.

READ: No-mercy Proteas 1 match from history

South Africa are likely to be more heavily favoured than before, now, to keep their feet suitably on the accelerator to complete the series business, given the mayhem that has erupted in Australian cricket with the ball-tampering issue.

That said, a wounded, makeshift Australian side might yet represent a dangerous Australian side - leaving a fair likelihood that the Proteas must fire on close to full cylinders to seal a series they presumably wish to with unusual zeal.

For all their dominance of the last two Tests, at St George's Park and Newlands respectively, South Africa have still demonstrated certain vulnerabilities that might be enough to keep a "clean machine" Australian team that faces them more than interested in knocking them over as a morale-lifter for the miffed public back home.

Most notably, the SA middle-order batting remains an enduring cause for concern, and it is an area where, usually, the likes of Amla and Du Plessis with their combined total of 167 Test caps can be leaned on for security.

Instead the marvellously in-form AB de Villiers (consummate leading runs-scorer across both sides with 352 at an average of 88) and Aiden Markram (291 at 48.50) have mostly led the SA charge in the department.

Amla has spent reasonably good periods at the crease in the last two Tests, after falling for single-figure scores twice in the first, and it is surprising that, considering his four subsequent knocks have seen scores trading in a range between 27 and 56, the often-dominating character hasn't properly "kicked on" to a genuinely big 'un yet.

But if Amla is under-achieving by his very high standards, Du Plessis has been, to be blunt, much closer to woeful with the blade, even if the captain must naturally take a fair dollop of credit when the heavyweight Australia are convincingly beaten twice in a row.

After a bright enough personal start to the recent home series against India, the right-hander managed just eight and two on the Wanderers "mamba" for the dead-rubber third Test, and sadly carried that cold streak into all of the first three contests against the Aussies.

He has notched a combined total of a miserly 55 runs across six innings in the series, at an average of 11, so he could certainly be said to be due for a change of fortune in Johannesburg - a clash that will carry huge poignancy if he manages to become the first SA home captain since Ali Bacher in 1969/70 to savour series success against the Aussies.

A South African side with most of their personnel retaining recent standards, plus Amla and Du Plessis belatedly coming to the party: really, that should be more than enough to translate to serious, further angst for embattled Australian cricket ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    australia  |  proteas  |  faf du plessis  |  hashim amla  |  cricket

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