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South Africa have re-focused their attention on the prospect of a series whitewash in the third Test match against Sri Lanka starting at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on Thursday. The Proteas arrived in Johannesburg on Tuesday with the comfort of an unassailable 2-0 series lead following the 282-run crushing win at PPC Newlands last week, but remain determined to maintain their dominant performances, particularly at a ground that will suit their strengths.
The squad will have the added advantage of intricate local knowledge from a number of the bizhub Highveld Lions players in the group, none more so than opening batsman, Stephen Cook, who has played 17 years of First-Class cricket at the stadium. Although there has been some rain around the area over the last few days, Cook expects a ‘traditional’ Wanderers wicket which should suit the Proteas’ pace arsenal.
“We’d love a clean sweep” Cook said to the media in Johannesburg. “We have just come from a team meeting where we have spoken about the importance of being 2-nil up and finishing the job. We spoke about it in Australia and didn’t do the business after having done the whitewash in the one-day series. It’s first and foremost on the guys’ minds, we know the conditions have suited us and we have been playing some good cricket and when opportunities present themselves to dominate like this that is what we are looking to do.
“Generally here, the wicket, particularly this season, there have been a few cracks around,” he explained. “Especially when it has been drier, so maybe this moist weather will keep them together a bit more. There ought to be the usual pace and bounce, it might be a little bit slow to start the game but generally day two and day three it tends to quicken up.”
The 34-year-old says it will be a “dream come true” to walk out to bat at his home ground, which will take centre stage as host of Hashim Amla’s 100th Test match for South Africa. He has urged the fans to come out in support of the Proteas, as it will also be the last Test match of the season to be played at home.
“It’s a proper dream come true,” he said. “This is my second home, I grew up on the banks here and that has been well documented that I have spent my whole career here. To be able to walk out and play a Test match for South Africa here is fantastic. There is no extra pressure, only natural pressure with it being a Test match.
“There have been many a day here that I have sat here playing in front of empty stands thinking it would be a great place to play in front of a packed house. Hopefully the guys come out and support this Test match and that part of the dream can be fulfilled.”
Meanwhile, Bethuel Buthelezi, the head curator at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium, shared, “I will keep grass on the pitch and there will be bounce and carry. But there won’t be as much in the wicket as there was for Broad (although it is the same strip as last season). This will be a wicket that will offer run-scoring opportunities,” Buthelezi said.
The announcement that there will be bounce and pace on offer with be welcomed by Kagiso Rabada, who ended with 10-92 in the second test at PPC Newlands.
It will be disconcerting to Sri Lanka, who battled to come to terms with the bounce and nip achieve by Messrs Rabada and (Vernon) Philander in Cape Town
The statistics at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium is a sobering reminder that even the rampant Proteas should keep their proverbial eye on the ball. They have won 14 tests in 36 played on the hallowed turf of the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium and have lost 11 times since the first test played at the Wanderers in December 1956.
The highest test total achieved at the ground was Australia’s all-conquering 652 for seven. South Africa amassed 620 in 1966. But the hosts also suffered batting humiliation at the ground. Their 72 in December 1956 and 83 in January 2017 where the second- and third-lowest totals achieved in tests at the ground. The win by the largest run margin was achieved by South Africa when they thumped New Zealand by 358 runs at the Bullring in November 2007.
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