Rain falls on the ground with covers over the pitch on day three of the third Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney on January 6, 2023.
Rain falls on the ground with covers over the pitch on day three of the third Test match between Australia and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney on January 6, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Sydney: Inclement weather threatens to derail Australia’s bid of a series clean sweep against South Africa and a confirmed place in the world Test championship final as the third and final Test against South Africa at Sydney Cricket Ground appears destined for a draw.

After rain and bad light delays across the first two days, consistent, and at times heavy, rain meant no play was possible at all on Friday. It left Australia unable to add to its imposing first-innings score of 475-4 and Usman Khawaja stranded on his overnight score of 195 and tantalizingly close to his first double century.

Australia now has the dilemma of deciding how many runs it needs and then how much time it needs to bowl out South Africa twice to win in the two remaining days on a pitch not yet offering the expected assistance for the spinners.

“I think it'd be pretty harsh if he (skipper Pat Cummins declared) straight away,” Khawaja said after play was abandoned on the prospect have being stranded on 195. "I don't think that's going to happen.

“We could go out there and get a few more runs really quickly or we could declare pretty much straight away. ”

Consistent rain swept through the Sydney area from early Friday morning and the gaps in the rainfall where not sufficient for ground staff to prepare the field and the match to resume. Shortly after the scheduled tea break, umpires abandoned the day's play.

The forecast appears more favorable for the final two days of the test, although some light showers are forecast for Saturday.

“Time is the enemy,” Khawaja said. “A result is unlikely, let's be honest, but it's still possible.”

Australia has already won the series after two crushing defeats in the first two tests at Brisbane and Melbourne.

A win for Australia in this third test would confirm its place in the world test championship final to be played at Lord’s in England in June this year.

On Thursday, Khawaja scored his third straight SCG ton and passed his previous highest test score of 174 — against New Zealand at Brisbane in 2015 — and shared a 209-run partnership with Steve Smith to lift Australia to 475-4 when rain stopped play for the day.

"Every hundred is extremely special," Khawaja said. “Last year's (twin centuries at the SCG) was unexpected because I wasn't intending to play. Even my wife came to me and said ‘That was really cool but I think last year might have been a little bit cooler’.”

Smith made 104 to join former Australia opening batter Matt Hayden on 30 test centuries. Only Ricky Ponting (41) and Steve Waugh (32) have more among Australian men’s test players.

Smith also passed Hayden (8,625 runs) and Michael Clarke (8,643) for career runs and is now the fourth-highest Australian test run scorer with 8,647 runs, behind Ponting (13,378), Allan Border (11,174) and Waugh (10,927).

Matt Renshaw, in his first test since 2018 for the injured Cameron Green, returned a positive test for COVID-19 just before play and was separated from the remainder of his teammates and moved into another changing room at the SCG. He batted as expected at No.6 and was five not out at stumps Thursday.

International Cricket Council regulations state Renshaw is permitted to play in the match as long he feels well enough, with the option for a like-for-like substitute if he was unable to play.

Renshaw could be seen Friday wandering along the boundary rope under an umbrella as he continues to isolate from his teammates in what is a frustrating return to test cricket for the 26-year-old, with hopes of being selected for the Australia squad to tour India next month.