Ed Hawkins previews a potentially tempestuous clash in Port Elizabeth from Friday and says the tourists have the edge...
"South Africa will need all of their experience to help battle a pumped Australia, who won game one with, frankly, little difficulty after they won the toss at a toss-bias venue"
South Africa v Australia
Friday 9 March 08:00 GMT
Live on Sky Sports
South Africa need wise heads
By the end of this series an Australian victory could be explained by ageing South Africans not quite having enough left in the tank for their last hurrah.
Morne Morkel has already said he will quit internationals at its end while AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla may also be considering their future.
Until then South Africa will need all of their experience to help battle a pumped Australia, who won game one with, frankly, little difficulty after they won the toss at a toss-bias venue.
Still, there were positives for the hosts. The nine wickets taken by Keshav Maharaj was a reminder that Australia have a weakness against spin. Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Morkel were all a handful.
The biggest plus point was Aiden Markram putting his troubles behind him with a fabulous 143 in the second innings. It looks like he's arrived.
Australia don't need to snarl
Australia will argue that their sledging and aggressive behaviour in the field does not cross the line and that they do it to unsettle the opposition. And besides, they will argue, it's their culture.
But good batsmen and bowlers don't need to be snarling and swearing. We don't but they do it to unnerve their foes, we think they do it to get their own adrenaline flowing and help with focus. It's about insecurity as much as anything.
Yet Australia are good enough not to need David Warner and Nathan Lyon behaving like WWE stars, eyes bulging manically and spit frothing. It's pathetic. Just bat and bowl and you'll be fine.
Steve Smith and the Marsh brothers look like giving the tourists the edge throughout this series and those are the three key wickets. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, as we have always said, are superb pacers. Lyon is stellar also.
Pitch could be tricky for side batting second
There have been only four Tests played at St George's Park in the last four years. It has a reputation for helping the seam and swing bowlers. This was enhanced when Zimbabwe were rolled for 68 and 121 last time out. Sri Lanka also struggled in the previous game with Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada in wrecking form.
In 2014 Australia were well-beaten thanks to Dale Steyn's pace and movement. They went down by 231 runs. Philander took five wickets in the match and even Wayne Parnell was a threat.
The first-innings average in the study period is 359. So clearly the team winning the toss has to bat first. Three from those four (one draw) were won by the side batting first. A slow, low surface is expected with the spinners coming to the fore later.
Hosts in trouble batting last
South Africa are [2.58], Australia [2.34] and the draw is [5.3]. The weather forecast for Port Elizabeth is good so getting on the stalemate doesn't seem to make much sense.
Before Australia's win in Durban we thought the teams were well-matched with the bat but the tourists had an edge with the ball thanks to their pace attack. Maharaj looks like going turn-to-turn with Lyon.
When two teams are close together it is important to consider outside factors which could swing it one way or the other. At PE that is surely the toss and we would be happy to be on Australia if it goes their way. They should come down to about [2.1].
Elgar and Du Plessis have ground form
The South African batsmen have solid records at PE. De Villiers averages a shade under 40, Amla at 40 and Quinton De Kock at 34. But it is Dean Elgar and Faf Du Plessis who should feel at home. They average 75 and 84 respectively. Elgar has two tons and two fifties in seven innings, Du Plessis two and two in six. Elgar is 5/1 and Du Plessis 9/2, both with Betfair Sportsbook. Markram is 7/2. We profile Elgar and Du Plessis here.
Smith wagers come unstuck
Smith, shock, horror, did not win top Australia bat in Durban. If he fails to notch a ton here it will be the first time in two years he has gone three Tests without three figures. Mitchell Marsh's 96 took honours. Smith is 9/4, Warner 10/3 and Mitchell Marsh 8/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook. Read more about the best bets for Smith, plus top bowler analysis here.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back Australia batting first at [2.1]