South Africa will be missing out on the services of Faf du Plessis but they will be aiming for a clean sweep when they face Pakistan in the final Test starting at the Wanderers Stadium on Friday.
Opening batsman Dean Elgar was announced as stand-in captain after Du Plessis was suspended for one match after South Africa fell short of the required over rate during their nine-wicket win in the second Test at Newlands.
Du Plessis has led South Africa to 17 wins in his 27 Tests in charge and was adjudged man of the match after scoring a century at Newlands.
Du Plessis is likely to be replaced by young Zubayr Hamza, who will become South Africa’s 100th Test player since the country returned to international cricket in 1991.
Hamza has been travelling with the squad throughout the series, primarily to gain experience in the national team set-up. He got a taste of Test cricket in front of his home crowd at Newlands when he took a good catch at fine leg off Steyn’s bowling as a substitute fielder. Hamza has an excellent career first-class batting average of 49.29.
A second change in South Africa’s batting line-up may be necessary, with opening batsman Aiden Markram facing a fitness test on Thursday after suffering a right thigh injury which prevented him from batting in the second innings at Newlands. Uncapped Pieter Malan, a teammate of Hamza at the Cape Cobras franchise, is drafted in the squad as standby player.
Du Plessis’s ban may also cause South Africa to question the wisdom of fielding an all-seam bowling attack, which inevitably puts pressure on over rates. The Wanderers is the ground where South Africa have most often fielded four fast bowlers and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj has only played in one of a possible three Tests at the ground since becoming a regular member of the squad.
The pitch received a ‘poor’ rating from the International Cricket Council after a Test against India in 2018. A repeat would cause the ground to be barred from staging international matches for a year and it seems unlikely the surface will again be prepared to give an undue advantage to fast bowlers.
Pakistan’s batting has struggled against South Africa’s fast bowling, although Shan Masood, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam have all showed they can score runs on this wicket. Their bowlers haven’t been able to create inroads so it seems there will be changes in the side.
But the options for the tourists are limited. Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf could both come into consideration as all-rounders after Pakistan’s four specialist bowlers were worn down during South Africa’s first innings of 431 at Newlands.
Dean Elgar (c), Aiden Markram or Pieter Malan, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Zubayr Hamza, Quinton de Kock (w), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier
Sarfraz Ahmed (c/w), Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan