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Australia v South Africa - Third Test preview: Sweep in Sydney looks a certainty

You can never truly write off South Africa in a Test match, but their chances of avoiding defeat to Australia in the third and final Test at the SCG look incredibly slim.

The first two matches of the three-match series have been completely one-sided in favour of the hosts and there seems little reason to think that anything markedly different will play out in Sydney.

That feeling largely comes from the fact that the Proteas' batting line-up failed to collectively make any sort of mark against the home attack in either Brisbane or Melbourne.

The series opener was done and dusted inside two days as the hosts won by six wickets, before they dominated from the off to triumph by an innings and 182 runs at the MCG.

What: Australia v South Africa
Where: Sydney Cricket Ground
When: 23:30, Tuesday 3rd January 2023
How to watch: BT Sport 2 and bet365 Sports Live Streaming
Odds: Australia 1/3, Draw 4/1, South Africa 17/2

Proteas batting not up to the task

Innings totals of 152, 99, 189 and 204 across the first Two Tests highlight the fact that the tourists have not been up to scratch with the bat.

And, in truth, they have no major options at their disposal to try and engineer a turnaround in fortunes this week.

Theunis De Bruyn is ruled out to be at the birth of his first child, with Rassie van der Dussen his most likely replacement, however, reserve wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen could be drafted in to play as a batter.

First-choice keeper Kyle Verreynne is really the only player to have impressed with the bat, making 149 runs at an average of 37.25, including two fifties - he is 11/2 to be Team - Top 1st Innings Batter.

The South African problems with the bat have begun at the very top of the order, with openers Dean Elgar and Sarel Erwee averaging 7.75 and 13.00 respectively - having put on opening stands of 12, 2, 29 and 0.

Harmer a second spin option

While South Africa’s batters have been blown away, their bowlers have acquitted themselves well much of the time.

Kagiso Rabada - 3/1 to be Team - Top 1st Innings Bowler - took eight wickets in the match at the Gabba, while Anrich Nortje and Marco Jansen have perhaps not gained the rewards their efforts have deserved.

On the flip side Lungi Ngidi has taken just two wickets at 66.50 and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj has gone wicketless in bowling 43.5 overs across the first two Tests.

One of that pair is now vulnerable to losing their place to off-spinner Simon Harmer, who could be drafted in if conditions look likely to favour slow bowlers.

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Hosts have options and motivation

Australia may have wrapped up the series, but they are not known as a side to take things easy at any point and they have the additional motivation of knowing that a third win in a row will seal a place in the World Test Championship final.

Like South Africa they will be forced to change their XI, with all-rounder Cameron Green and left-arm pace ace Mitchell Starc missing out due to finger injuries.

Left-hander Matt Renshaw and left-arm spinner Ashton Agar have been called up as replacements, showing that the Baggy Green may adopt a different approach if conditions dictate.

However, both the fit-again Josh Hazlewood and fellow fast bowler Lance Morris are also hoping to be given the nod.

Coach Andrew McDonald has the option of fielding a fifth bowler and pushing wicketkeeper Alex Carey up to six in the batting order, or putting his faith in a four-man attack in the absence of Green.

Agar - 11/2 to be Team - Top 1st Innings Bowler - will be hoping, like Harmer, that conditions at the SCG favour spin, meaning that he could get a chance to impress with a tour of India starting next month.

Prediction

Having seen South Africa totally and utterly blown away in the first two Tests, it is hard to see how they can change things greatly, especially as they have no real quality to add to their misfiring batting line-up.

In contrast, Australia can afford to lose the likes of Green and Starc and still have Hazlewood, Agar and others ready to step in and fill the gaps.

The Baggy Green record at the SCG also gives little comfort to the Proteas, with England (twice) the only visiting side to win in Sydney since 1995.

However, weather intervening has seen five of the last eight Test at the venue end in draws, so 4/1 for that to happen this time around may hold some appeal.

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