South Africa and Australia will both be forced to call on fringe players when the number one ranking in Test cricket goes on the line in the final Test starting Friday in Perth.
After a tame draw in the series opener in Brisbane, South Africa's batting heroics in Adelaide, led by a defiant unbeaten century from debutant Faf du Plessis, ensured the second Test also ended all-square despite a tense and dramatic last day.And it means both sides will tread the WACA ground with the chance to end the series as the top team in Test cricket.
A win for South Africa, or a draw, would see the Proteas retain their position atop the rankings, while an Australian victory would put them back in the number one spot they last held more than three years ago.
Complicating matters are several forced changes as the competitive nature of the first two Tests takes a heavy toll, with just a three-day break between matches.
South Africa are likely to be without all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who played a crucial role in saving the Adelaide Test with the bat and exacerbated a hamstring injury. But skipper Graeme Smith is leaving the door open.
“He is definitely not going to bowl but he could play as a batter," said Smith.
All-rounder Ryan McLaren, who played one Test against England in 2010, has been added to the squad as cover.
The tourists are also waiting on the fitness of seamer Vernon Philander, who was a late withdrawal from Adelaide with a sore back. Rory Kleinveldt replaced Philander at the last minute and after dismissing the Australian top three in the second innings is hoping for a berth in Perth.
Australia go into the Test without young quick James Pattinson, ruled out for the rest of the summer with a side injury. Pattinson joined fellow paceman Pat Cummins on the long-term sidelines and there is concern that experienced fast bowlers Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus will struggle in Perth after their final day exertions in Adelaide.
The Australia selectors have added three fast bowlers to a 14-man squad for the final Test. Uncapped pair Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings come in along with forgotten quick Mitchell Johnson, while Mitchell Starc, 12th man in the first two Tests, looks to win a promotion.