South Africa press for clean sweep against Pakistan
After a comfortable 211-run win in the first Test in Johannesburg, South Africa were made to work hard before clinching the series with a four-wicket win in the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town.
The second victory was achieved on a surface which captain Graeme Smith said did not suit his team, whose bowling attack is based on world-class fast bowlers.
Centurion has traditionally favoured fast bowlers and the South Africans will feel confident they can prevail again in conditions more familiar than those in which Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal took 10 wickets in Cape Town.
Coach Gary Kirsten told a South African website that the hosts wanted a pitch that was more seam friendly than Newlands.
"We just don't want a pitch that turns a lot," he said.
Smith has been racking up captaincy records during the series, notching 100 Test captaincies in Johannesburg and a record 49th win as captain in Cape Town.
Under his leadership, South Africa have won 21 series -- but none of them has featured a clean sweep in a series of three or more matches.
With South Africa firmly entrenched as the number one team in the International Cricket Council rankings, players and management frequently talk of creating a legacy -- and maintaining standards after a series has been won is one way of doing that.
With greater batting depth and the world's two leading fast bowlers in Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, South Africa appear to hold most of the aces, although they will be without the tall Morne Morkel, the third member of what has been described as the best fast bowling trio in the world.
Burly Rory Kleinveldt will replace the injured Morkel.
Pakistan hope left-arm fast bowler Junaid Khan will have recovered from a thigh injury. He was Pakistan's most impressive bowler in the first Test, but missed the second because of injury.
Given the success of Ajmal at Newlands, Pakistan may be tempted to pick a second spinner, left-armer Abdur Rehman, even if conditions are not especially favourable for spin bowlers.
In both Tests, Pakistan's third seamer has been a weakness, with Rahat Ali and Tanvir Ahmed ineffective in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively.
Centurion has been a South African fortress, with the home side winning 13 out of 17 Tests at the ground. The only loss was a contrived result against England in January 2000.
South Africa (likely): Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wkt), Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Rory Kleinveldt
Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wkt), Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Imran Farhat, Tanvir Ahmed, Ehsan Adil, Abdur Rehman, Faisal Iqbal, Rahat Ali
Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZL), Steve Davis (AUS). TV umpire: Bruce Oxenford (AUS). Match referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)