CENTURION, South Africa (AP) — South Africa begins the third test against Pakistan at Centurion on Friday looking to wrap up its second series whitewash of the home summer and put daylight between itself and the rest of the chasing pack in the ICC test rankings.
South Africa beat New Zealand 2-0 in a brief series in January and, having already taken an unassailable 2-0 lead against Pakistan, it is assured of a $450,000 check as it's guaranteed to hold the No. 1 ranking when the ICC hands out the annual prize money on April 1.
Victory in the third test would give South Africa a ratings bump of four points and a 10-point lead over second-ranked England, but it will come up against a Pakistan side that showed signs of improvement in a four-wicket loss in the second test in Cape Town.
Pakistan posted 338 in its first innings and had South Africa 109-5 in reply, but only gained a 12-run lead before collapsing in the second innings to present the Proteas with an easy target for the series victory.
"We need to improve our batting. We need some consistency," Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said. "It's not about one innings. You have to play every innings like that (first innings) and post big totals.
"You also have to get teams out twice, not say, 'Let's get them out once and take an advantage and then let it slip.'"
South Africa will aim to continue its dominance, and will be playing at a seam-friendly venue where it has won four of its past five matches by an innings. The last two tests at Centurion brought resounding victories over sub-continental teams India and Sri Lanka.
The key now, Proteas captain Graeme Smith said, is to maintain the standards that have brought six series wins on the trot and a great deal of pride.
"The nature of sport is that you are afraid of slipping up and you need to make the most of your opportunity," Smith said. "It's not often teams have the right type of players, the environment and are producing the results.
"As a team, we can look back and say we did ourselves proud and not that we left ourselves short. I will be extremely proud of saying that I could take Proteas to No.1 in the world."
South Africa will be without fast bowler Morne Morkel, who injured a hamstring in the second test, and will include Rory Kleinveldt in his place.
Kleinveldt endured a difficult debut against Australia last November, conceding figures of 0-97 in his first innings, but recovered to take four wickets in his next outing in Adelaide and played a role in South Africa's innings victory over New Zealand in Port Elizabeth last month.
"Adelaide was a big step for him — the way he bounced back," Smith said. "He made some important impacts. I have seen him develop with that confidence at training. He looks assured.
"His performance in PE was solid. He bowled well, created good chances and can swing the ball both ways."