Stage set for Test 'grand final'
Michael Slater
15:00 AEST Wed Nov 28 2012

In bat with Slats
Michael Slater is a former opening batsman for Australia and now well respected member of the Wide World of Sports cricket commentary team.
Michael Slater
  Have your say on the Third Test

The Second Test between Australia and South Africa at Adelaide Oval was one of the greatest advertisements for Test cricket I have ever seen. The match had absolutely everything. High, lows, injuries, fight-backs, gutsy efforts and sheer determination spread across five days of unbelievable intrigue.

The first day was incredible with David Warner, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey absolutely dominating the highly-regarded Proteas bowling line-up. I thought the way Warner attacked when Australia was struggling and then had Clarke and Hussey continue in the same frame of mind led to an opening day more entertaining than any I can remember.

The second day saw the Proteas fight back and limit Australia to 550. They came out determined to turn the momentum around and through a brilliant bowling performance they took the first innings initiative out of Michael Clarke's hands. We then had two days of ups and downs for both sides, with Australia always on top and destined to wrap up the Test early on the final day.

Test cricket and South Africans clearly aren't that easy to predict or master and through the final day and a half we witnessed a display of sheer guts and determination. Faf du Plessis was brilliant on debut, batting for nearly eight hours to remain unbeaten at the end and save the Test for his country. But the effort from Australia paceman Peter Siddle was simply awe-inspiring.

Both teams suffered key injuries with Jacques Kallis pulling up lame on the first morning after claiming two early Australia wickets. Kallis showed how much playing for his country means to him by batting under duress and playing his part in saving the Test. He was sorely missed from the Proteas bowling attack, but not as much as James Pattinson was missed by Australia.

Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus had to shoulder the fast bowling load in hot conditions through that final day and Siddle in particular really stood up. Just when it looked like he could give no more and would be mercifully rested he claimed the eighth wicket and was compelled to fight on. It was a truly memorable performance from him and I only hope that effort hasn't ruled him out of the final Test.

Australia currently has a system where the bowlers are keeping diaries of how much work they put in each day. They consider how much running, net bowling and gym work they have put in on any particular day and give it a rating out of ten. The same applies for the days during a match. The idea is that when they reach a certain number of points over a particular length of time they are required to rest and recuperate. I'm not sure how many points Siddle had accumulated before his outstanding effort on the final day of the Second Test, but I really hope it doesn't keep him from playing at the WACA.

With the series at 0-0 and the world No1 Test team ranking on the line, this Third Test is effectively a grand final and Australia must pick the best eleven players available. With Shane Watson fit, he will come straight in for Rob Quiney and with James Pattinson out, Mitchell Starc should come into the attack. The question remaining will be whether the conditions suit Nathan Lyon or whether a horses for courses decision would see Mitchell Johnson included. Whichever way they go, I don't think they can afford to leave Siddle out.

I also hope Kallis can somehow manage to play despite his injury. The Proteas have to decide whether Kallis at 75 percent fit is a better option than anyone else they could bring in. He is certainly a key part of their success over recent years and would be sorely missed.

It promises to be another great contest at the WACA where the quicks traditionally enjoy the conditions more than the batsmen. Dale Steyn looked threatening at times in Adelaide and can't be far off his devastating best. Australia will go into this one knowing they have dominated play for most of the first two Tests. They could be feeling a bit flat after failing to secure victory in Adelaide, but I think they will have gained enough confidence from those performances to go one step better and win in Perth. It's grand final time and I can't wait.

What was the best performance of the Second Test?
Which bowlers should Australia pick for the Third Test?
What will the Third Test result be?

Most popular articles
Spotted....Professional surfer
strikes in fashion
Wide World of Sports TV partners
AFL Footy ShowAustralia's favourite team takes you through the week in AFL.NRL Footy ShowFatty and the gang bring you an entertaining look at rugby league.Footy ClassifiedOur award winning panel tell it how it really is in the AFL world.Wide World of SportsCatch up with Ken Sutcliffe and the team on Wide World of Sports.