Sports, Cricket

Australia look to lock in WTC final with series whitewash

Published : 03 Jan 2023 08:37 PM

Another Sydney Test where the series is decided, but the advantage of the World Test Championship is that plenty remains at stake. For Australia they can, barring points deductions, secure a place in June's final with victory at the SCG while South Africa need to win to keep their now slim hopes alive.

The last time South Africa played here, back in 2008-09, they were the side that arrived 2-0 up and Australia secured a consolation victory. It came in dramatic circumstances when Graeme Smith walked out with a broken hand to try and save the match and only narrowly failed when Mitchell Johnson got one through him with 10 balls remaining.

Can the result be reversed this time? It's hard to believe it will be, given the gulf between the batting in the two sides. South Africa scrapped past 200 for the first time in eight innings in the final throes of the MCG Test. Their pace attack kept them in the World Test Championship, but their batting ultimately looks like costing them.

However, Australia will have to make changes. Mitchell Starc is out with a broken middle finger - his second-innings bowling in Melbourne was herculean - but in many ways, the bigger loss is Cameron Green because of the balance he provides (his fifty, with a broken finger, was another huge effort). The fact there have been many questions over the balance of Australia's side weeks shows the impact of Green's absence.

There has been talk of having an eye on India and the SCG surface may naturally allow Australia to go that way, but they do not want to take their eye off the ball with the final so close. Little moments, not just their over-rate, cost them in the last cycle and they've also had problems taking 20 wickets on this ground in the last few years.

As has become tradition, this is also the Pink Test - the 15th, with South Africa having played in the first - where money is raised for the McGrath foundation and the third day is dedicated to Glenn's late wife, Jane, who died of breast cancer in 2008. The Pink Test has raised more than AU$17 million and the foundation now employs 193 breast care nurses with the aim of having 250 by 2025.