After two fairly epic matches so far – one a bit more epic than the other – the shootout for the number one Test ranking, and the ultra-stylish mace that comes with it, will come down to the final match of the series, at the WACA. This is good for several reasons, but the main one is that we’ll actually have a reviewer there in person for the first three days, meaning that we’ll be able to bring you a super-extended review at the game’s end, complete with discussions about the merits of mid-strength beer, the quality of the WACA toilet facilities and news of just how many of those pretend watermelon hats we managed to get on our heads before being thrown out by the ridiculously aggressive security guards.
After two games in which they’ve largely dominated and yet failed to win, Australia have to drag their weary bodies through one final ordeal (at least before three more final ordeals against Sri Lanka). The bowling ranks resembled an episode of Casualty by the end of the Adelaide Test: James Pattinson is definitely out for the summer with a rib injury, while Peter Siddle literally bowled himself into the ground in a forlorn attempt to win the match. Add to that Dave Warner’s spinning finger being officially ‘a bit sore’ and there’s a whole heap of problems to overcome.
Luckily, riding to the rescue comes perma-cripple Shane Watson, set to play his first Test in Australia since the Ashes were surrendered at the SCG in early 2011. He will replace perma-shit Rob Quiney, whose Test career appears over after two of the finest ducks you’re ever likely to see. The rest of the batting lineup will be unchanged; Warner and Cowan will continue to provide the comedy at the top of the order while Ricky Ponting’s final appearance will provide the talking point in the middle. And Michaels Clarke and Hussey will score all the runs.
The initial squad included no more than six seamers plus the Lion King. Once it became apparent that a bunch of slushies from the local 7-Eleven weren’t actually a magical cure for tiredness, Siddle and Hilfenhaus both dropped out, leaving four seamers and the Lion King competing for four places. Mitchell Starc should logically find a place in the XI, having been twelfth man twice so far this summer; from there it’s a case of picking any three from Mitchell Johnson (too similar to Starc, also hilariously bad), John Hastings (too slow), Josh Hazlewood (face too small for his body) and the Lion (booked in for a seminar about optimum grass length during the second day). We can genuinely see the selectors picking names out of a hat. Perhaps from Ricky Ponting’s baggy green, seeing as he won’t be needing it anymore.
If picking the Australian side requires a lot of guesswork, things should be somewhat easier for South Africa: they’ll just pick the players that are actually fit, or thereabouts. After a mindbogglingly bad performance in Adelaide, Imran Tahir should have no chance of being selected. If he is, we’ll eat our hats. Or maybe Ricky Ponting’s baggy green, seeing as he won’t be needing it anymore. Either way, Robin Peterson is the likely beneficiary, with him batting at seven and Faf du Plessis moving up to a more sensible six. Jacques Rudolph is likely to make way. Assuming he doesn’t injure himself in bed again (no sniggering at the back), Big Vern will be back as well. The lack of alternatives mean that Rory Kleinveldt will also keep his place, good news for The Big 51allout Book Of Fat Jokes, which will get some serious airtime over the next few days.
We’re assuming that Jacques Kallis will definitely play. Given how comfortable he looked on one leg in Adelaide, he should be okay to stand and deliver, carving Mitchell Johnson to all corners. He’s unlikely to bowl though, denying him the chance to give Ricky Ponting one final merking.
Even though the forecast for the first day is a bit dodgy, with it due to rain in Perth for the first time in about thirty years, there’s little chance of this game not reaching a result. The WACA pitch is usually lively, with plenty of pace, bounce and discarded beer bottles. Add in a bit of cloud cover and you have a recipe for some serious fast bowling. Or, more likely, some hilariously incompetent batting. South Africa have barely turned up for the first two games but we reckon their four man pace attack should have the edge, given that it doesn’t contain Mitchell Johnson.
South Africa to win in four days; Australia to be undone by the fact that when Michael Clarke doesn’t make a double hundred they’re really not that good.