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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

The liveliest of dead rubbers

Australia's three debutants: Nic Maddinson, Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb Getty Images

Match facts

November 24-28, 2016
Start time 1400 local (0330 GMT)

Big Picture

Remember back in April, when South Africa's players were reluctant to accept a day-night Adelaide Test? It could be a series decider, they said, and there could be a No.1 ranking on the line. What quaint, innocent times they were. This series was decided when Australia capitulated in Hobart, and indeed there is a Test ranking up for grabs for the winner of this match, but it is No.4. Still, what both teams wouldn't have given for the pink-ball day-night factor to be the primary focus of this past week. Instead, all anyone has cared about is what South Africa's captain sucked in Hobart, and why Australia sucked in Hobart. As for the day-night Test, both teams will just suck it and see.

In the end, for all the argy-bargy - both verbal and physical - around the ball-tampering issue, South Africa will have Faf du Plessis available in Adelaide and may or may not change their XI. As for Australia? They will be unrecognisable - and not just to the public. Three debutants - opener Matt Renshaw and middle-order batsmen Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson - have been confirmed. Smith even revealed that prior to this week, he had never so much as set eyes on Renshaw. In his column on Cricket Australia's website, Smith wrote of the squad convening in Adelaide: "I had to quietly ask a couple of the guys who had met Matt beforehand to make sure they pointed him out to me if he happened to walk past."

It is a remarkable situation in which the Australians find themselves. Three debutant batsmen in Australia's Test top six is exceptionally rare. It last happened during the World Series Cricket divide, and before that in 1946 in the first Test following a six-year hiatus due to World War II. But to find the last occasion that was not caused by external circumstances we must go all the way back to 1936 and Don Bradman's first Test as captain. Even that instance is debatable - it occurred only when the batting order was tweaked in the second innings. Not since 1924 and the shared debut of Bill Ponsford, Victor Richardson and Arthur Richardson has it happened in the first innings.

All of this just highlights how extraordinary Australia's selection sweep has been this week. South Africa's week, too, has been far from normal. But now the focus can shift to the pink-ball day-night Test, the third in the game's history. Should South Africa win, they will move to No.4 on the Test rankings and Australia - No.1 earlier this year - will fall to fifth. Then there is the small matter of a possible clean sweep: never in Australia's history have they lost every Test of a home series of three or more matches. Never has a dead rubber felt so alive.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia: LLLLL
South Africa: WWWDW

In the spotlight

One of the most debatable of Australia's selection decisions this week was the axing of Peter Nevill, considered the country's best gloveman and a batsman who had fought in vain for a draw in Perth, and the recall of Matthew Wade. Australia's selectors believe that Wade's wicketkeeping has improved since he last played a Test in March 2013 and his batting record - two fighting centuries in a 12-Test career - is encouraging. But it also appears that Wade's yappy nature behind the stumps is a desired trait, and that Nevill was simply perceived as too quiet. It is also worth noting that Wade is colour blind, yet has been called up for a day-night Test. However, this may be less of a problem than some people think: in his four day-night Sheffield Shield games, Wade has scored 55, 30, 41*, 78 and 26.

The leading run scorer in the series, Quinton de Kock has been a constant barrier between Australia's bowlers and their hopes of running through the South African lower order. He has piled up 252 at 84.00 from just three Test innings on this trip, and clearly has no problems against the pink ball, having blasted 122 against a Cricket Australia XI in the day-night warm-up game before the first Test. In fact, such has been de Kock's consistency in recent times that if he reaches a half-century in his first innigs in Adelaide, he will join Jacques Kallis and Alan Melville as the only South Africans in history to have passed fifty in six consecutive Test innings.

Team news

Australia confirmed their XI on the eve of the match, with Chadd Sayers named 12th man and Jackson Bird included. It means five changes from their Hobart XI: Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb, Nic Maddinson, Matthew Wade and Bird have come in at the expense of Joe Burns, Adam Voges, Callum Ferguson, Peter Nevill and Joe Mennie.

Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Matt Renshaw, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Peter Handscomb, 6 Nic Maddinson, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Josh Hazlewood, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Jackson Bird.

There is a school of thought that Tabraiz Shamsi, the left-arm wrist-spinner, might come in for this Test due to the difficulty for batsmen in seeing the seam on the pink ball, and therefore picking a wrist-spinner's variations.

South Africa (possible) 1 Stephen Cook, 2 Dean Elgar, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Temba Bavuma, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Kyle Abbott, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Keshav Maharaj / Tabraiz Shamsi.

Pitch and conditions

An extra two millimetres of grass will be shaved off the Adelaide Oval pitch this year compared to last year's inaugural day-night Test in an effort to even up the contest between bat and ball. Still, there should be plenty of seam movement and batsmen will need to work hard both against the new ball, and during the dusk period when the lights first come on. No rain is anticipated over the course of the match.

Stats and trivia

  • This will be Steven Smith's 17th Test as captain, and will take his tally to 28 players used in those Tests. By comparison, Steve Waugh used only 28 players in his entire 57-Test captaincy career

  • This will be the 12th consecutive Test in which Australia have used a different XI from their previous match

  • Last time a team whitewashed Australia in Australia was 1887, when England did it in a two-Test series. It has never happened in a series of three or more Tests

  • Peter Handscomb is the leading run scorer in day-night Sheffield Shield games, with 480 at 60.00. His record at Adelaide Oval is also extremely strong: 479 first-class runs at 68.42

Quotes

"Very important. You want to be part of creating history. We've played some really good cricket and we've got something going. I don't know how many pink-ball Tests will be played. This could be our first or last."
Faf du Plessis, South Africa's stand-in captain, on the importance of the match

winning debutants

2

Instances of two debutants remaining unbeaten at the end of a successful chase in Tests; the previous such instance was in 1880

Warner's run-outs

1

Number of times Warner had been run out in 100 Test innings before this series; in this series, he has been run out twice in six innings

Converting starts

4

Number of times, in 10 Test innings, that Stephen Cook has gone past 25. He has converted two of those into hundreds

Hazlewood's bunny

5

Number of times Hazlewood has dismissed Amla in this series; no other bowler has dismissed Amla more than 4 times in a series. Amla averages 5.80 against him

Starc's first-over strikes

20

Wickets that Starc has taken in the first over of an innings in all international cricket since Jan 2015 - no other bowler has taken more than 7 in this period

At home in Australia

67.42

Khawaja's average in home Tests - he has scored 944 runs in 16 inngs, 4 hundreds. In away Tests he averages 30.29 - 515 runs in 18 inngs

Khawaja doubles opening runs

12.37

Khawaja's average while opening in first-class matches in AUS before this innings. He had made just 99 runs from 8 inns before this.

Khawaja's home run

7

Fifty-plus scores for Khawaja in Tests at home. He has made at least one such score in each of the 6 home Tests he has batted in since 2015.

Lyon on the prowl

100+

Overs now Nathan Lyon has gone without a wicket in first-class matches. His last wicket came in the first innings of the Perth Test.