Australia are expected to recall allrounder Shane Watson for the third Test against South Africa as they attempt to bounce back from their first defeat in six Test outings and clinch a series win over the world's top-ranked side. The tourists were made to pay for going into the second Test in Port Elizabeth with just three seamers, who labored for 133 overs in a 231-run defeat.
Watson missed the first two Tests when a calf strain left him unable to bowl, but came through a crucial training session on Thursday to confirm his fitness for Saturday's decider at Newlands. Either Alex Doolan or Shaun Marsh, who scored heavily in Australia's victory in the first Test, will make way if Watson returns as anticipated.
"Having Watto back would be huge, having that extra bowler," fast bowler Ryan Harris said. "We've seen when Davey (Warner) has to bowl a few and Michael (Clarke) has to fill in, they're bowling Watto's overs. (Third Test preview)
Watson claimed 5-17 in his last outing at Newlands, but Australia lost that 2011 match after being bowled out for 47. Although he has spent most of his career batting in the top order, Watson is expected to slot in at number six as Clarke and Steve Smith move up a spot.
South Africa, meanwhile, have decisions to make over the identity of their opening pair and their number eight. Alviro Petersen has recovered from the bout of gastroenteritis that kept him out of the Port Elizabeth win, and coach Russell Domingo suggested that the batsman's return will force Dean Elgar back into the middle order, leading Quinton de Kock to drop out of the side.
Standing in for Petersen as an opener, Elgar scored a gutsy 83 that helped turn the series back in South Africa's favor. "Batting at six it's a massive advantage for him that he has been opening, because he's often going to face the second new ball," Domingo noted. "That's a big bonus for us to have, an option like that batting at six. We'll decide on those things closer to the day."
With Wayne Parnell ruled out by a groin strain, Domingo and convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson must decide if fellow allrounder Ryan McLaren remains the most logical replacement. McLaren was kept out of the second Test with a Mitchell Johnson-induced concussion, but has recovered sufficiently to be considered for selection again. Fast bowlers Rory Kleinveldt and Kyle Abbott are South Africa's other options.
Domingo indicated that the Proteas would continue to play without a frontline spinner, leaving Robin Peterson on the sidelines. The lead-up to the series decider has been dominated by comments from Warner, who suggested that South Africa wicketkeeper AB de Villiers had changed the condition of the ball to aid reverse-swing in South Africa's thumping victory in Port Elizabeth.
Warner was fined by 15 per cent of his match fee by the International Cricket Council, while South Africa's team manager Dr Mohammad Moosajee labelled the comments as "sour grapes".