South Africa v Australia Third Test Betting: Hosts look to land decisive blow

Australia's Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc has a niggle

Ed Hawkins takes a look at the odds for game three at Newlands from Thursday and says the tourists could be vulnerable if Starc is missing

"Since his debut in 2011 Starc has missed 33 Tests but Australia still won 18 of them, losing eight. They have lost two of their last four. He most recently missed the drawn Ashes Test in Melbourne"

South Africa v Australia
Thursday 22 March 08:00 GMT
TV: live on Sky Sports

Rabada boosts South Africa

South Africa will believe that momentum is unquestionably with them. They bounced back superbly from defeat in the first Test by busting a toss bias in Port Elizabeth, winning by six wickets, and go to fortress Cape Town with their talisman available.

Kagiso Rabada looked set to miss the contest after celebrating too exuberantly - and making contact with Steve Smith - when he dismissed the Aussie skipper, He received a points sanction which meant the totting-up system saw him banned. But after a six-and-a-half hour appeal, Rabada can play.

It is good for the sport and the Saffers will be cockahoop. Rabada razed Australia in PE, taking 11 wickets in the match.

AB De Villiers is not looking too shabby either. He was the hero with the bat blasting a match-turning first-innings century. Hashim Amla also made a welcome return.

South Africa have added Chris Morris and Duanne Olivier to their squad but we expect them to be unchanged.

Starc struggling for Aussies

Problems for Australia. Mitchell Starc, their best bowler, is struggling with a calf problem which just won't go away.

The rangy pacer has had plenty of time to get over the niggle but it continues to cause him problems. Following back-to-back Tests at Durban and Port Elizabeth it is a reminder of how brittle Starc's body can be. He rarely competes in all matches in a series.

There are also concerns over Mitchell Marsh. He has a groin strain and, like Starc, has missed net sessions. Jhye Richardson, the Western Australia quick, and Chadd Sayers provide back up.

Australia may feel a little perturbed by their batting failure in game two. It highlighted what happens to them when, basically, Smith doesn't drop anchor.

Pitch could be tricky for batting

There have been 17 Tests played at Newlands in the last 12 years. The first-innings scores (most recent on the right) read: 286-205-593-414-157-243-209-291-362-284-580-45-338-494-329-629-392That is an average of 343. The 45 you see was by New Zealand in 2013 and is a freak.

In January South Africa beat India at the venue by 72 runs in a low-scoring game. No team busted 300 and no batsman scored a century. A repeat makes the first-innings runs wide open.

The pitch was green and Vernon Philander, the wily old stager took full advantage. What the track will be like this time is a puzzle. The drought may mean the groundsman has no control. Otherwise South Africa have consistently asked for slow wickets to counter Aussie pacers.

Hosts fair favourites

South Africa are 2.35/4, Australia 2.56/4 and the draw is 5.79/2. The match odds market recognises that the force is with the hosts as they are jollies for the first time in the series.

The Newlands factor would appear, at first look, to be significant. South Africa have lost only five of their last 33 there. Unfortunately for them all of those five were to Australia.

Starc's fitness could be the decisive factor, then? Since his debut in 2011 Starc has missed 33 Tests but Australia still won 18 of them, losing eight. They have lost two of their last four. He most recently missed the drawn Ashes Test in Melbourne.

Still, it is hard to get away from the feeling that the odds are about right. From ball one we have said that South Africa should be treated with more respect. Now they have got it. Starc's niggle puts us off taking the odds on Australia, though.

Starc's problem does open up an edge on Betfair Sportsbook's performance market (1pt per run, 10 per catch, 20 per wkt). Go under 120.5 at 5/6 as his career make-up is 118. And that injury might just keep him on our side.

AB has ground form

De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis did a rescue job on South Africa in the first Test against India at Newlands at the start of the year. They both made half-centuries (AB top scored) as the hosts recovered from 12 for three. AB is 4.03/1 and Du Plessis 4.216/5.

Smith out to end 'poor' run

Smith is yet to take honours for top Australia runscorer in first innings on tour. Nor has he managed a century in three Tests. That is his leanest run for two years. He is 3.3512/5 to be top Aussie.

Ed Hawkins P-L

2018: +12.59
2017: +12pts
2016: +18.1pts
2015: +38pts
2014: +31.5pts
2013: +25pts
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

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