A decider and a primer
South Africa v Australia, October 28, Durban
Start time 1430 (1230 GMT)
South Africa found form and success in Port Elizabeth while Australia slipped to perhaps the team's most abject performance since Michael Clarke replaced Ricky Ponting as captain. The result means the third match at Kingsmead is a series decider, and also a chance for one side or the other to carry useful momentum into the Test series. Both sides will have the benefit of significant reinforcements for the five-day matches, but there will also be those in the ODI teams pressing to be included or retained.
Australia have a headache surrounding the fitness of Shane Watson, who is yet to bowl in training after suffering from back spasms at St George's Park. The flair-up followed a hip complaint that kept him out of the first ODI, and Watson's history of suffering injuries in bunches will be at the back of Clarke's mind, even though his vice-captain has been far more durable over the past two years. Clarke will also want more from his pace bowlers, who were taken for plenty of new-ball runs at the hands of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith.
Morne Morkel's hostile and intelligent bowling was perhaps the most ominous performance from a South Africa player in the second ODI, and took him top he top of the ICC rankings. The stand-in captain Hashim Amla will want more of the same from Morkel and Dale Steyn as they build to a peak for the Tests. JP Duminy can push for a Test batting spot with more runs in Durban, while Amla himself would appreciate a better day out than the last - a first-ball duck at the hands of Doug Bollinger.
South Africa: WLLWW
In the spotlight
Hashim Amla has had a mixed time of it as South Africa's interim captain, and a victory in Durban would allow him to hand a more confident team back to Graeme Smith after the trials of the World Cup and the challenge of returning from a lengthy hiatus. Equally critical for Amla is the fact that he is yet to make a score of note in four innings against Australia on this trip, tallying only 32 runs. Given his pivotal place in the Test batting order, Amla needs to build some confidence of his own against the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Patrick Cummins.
Australia's last limited overs fixture before February means this is likely the last time Doug Bollinger will be seen in the national strip till then. Bollinger is still fighting the deeply-held views of the national selectors and others that he is not fit enough to sustain his efforts in a Test match, and has not been selected for one since the second Test of last summer's Ashes series. Durban will provide a final opportunity for Bollinger to remind observers of his qualities with the ball, before he returns home with the desire to bowl the long spells for New South Wales that will prove his capability of going the distance in a Test once more.
Pitch and conditions
Evening rain is forecast for Durban, with the possibility of a thunderstorm, so the players and spectators may be in for another frustrating match of interruptions and delays. The moisture in the air and on the ground may suit the pace bowlers, much as it did during the latter part of the first match in Pretoria. Also, the pitch is expected to have a smattering of grass, further assisting the quicks.
South Africa are unlikely to change the team that won so handsomely in the second ODI, with Imran Tahir's legspin probably to remain hidden from Australia until the first Test. Mark Boucher was hit on the hand during training on Thursday, but is expected to be fine. The team management will fly someone in if he is not, the likeliest option being Thami Tsolekile who is not involved in a first-class at the moment.
South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla (capt), 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 JP Duminy, 5 David Miller, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Johan Botha, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Shaun Marsh has a strong chance to return to the team after recovering from a shoulder problem, and may resume in place of Shane Watson, giving Australia's vice-captain extra time to be fully fit for the Tests. James Pattinson or Mitchell Marsh may also be considered to bolster the pace attack.
Australia (probable) 1 Shaun Marsh, 2 David Warner, 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Steve Smith, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Doug Bollinger.
Stats & trivia
- Australia will retain top spot in the ODI rankings regardless of what happens at Kingsmead. South Africa needed to win the series 3-0 to draw level with the tourists on the ICC table.
- Australia's narrow win over South Africa in Durban in 1997 was due largely to the first significant innings of Adam Gilchrist's international career. Batting at No. 6 and arriving at 50 for 4, Gilchrist smote 77 from 88 deliveries to give the tourists a target they defended grandly.
"We enjoy playing here, these conditions are similar some of the pitches that we are brought up on in Australia, with the pace and bounce, and we can play our shots freely ."
Australia batsman Michael Hussey says his team-mates are enjoying familiar conditions
"If we play like we did the other night, we'll get a hiding from South Africa again."
Australia captain Michael Clarke doesn't mince his words
"I wouldn't quite say it's a World Cup final. The team has a bigger goal at hand. There are other aspects of the game that we are going to be putting emphasis on."
Stand-in South Africa captain Hashim Amla plays down the importance of the decider
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo