PERTH, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 01: Dale Steyn of South Africa celebrates dismissing David Warner of Australia during day two of the Third Test Match between Australia and South Africa at the WACA on December 1, 2012 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Meat and potatoes … Dale Steyn gets back to basics and dismisses Dave Warner for 13. Photo: Getty Images

This three-Test series has been a mouth-waterer, a teaser, a tantaliser, a tension-builder. South Africa deserve a complete five-match series, as do Australia and the fans of both countries.


Sadly, Boxing Day comes but once a year and both nations desire a home fixture on that public holiday. Thanks to some delicious and gutsy cricket from multiple players in Brisbane and Adelaide, the caravan has come to Perth with a title on the line - a world title at that. In Australian sporting vernacular, when two teams play for titles it is usually in a grand final and for many this is how the final match of this short series has been billed. There is much to play for, although a lengthy post-season rest is not one of them.


Most teams approaching a grand final at any level would prefer to stick with the combination that took them there. Coaches and selectors like stability; they like to have faith in players who have performed under pressure through cold days and hot. Wounded players are given until ''the last minute'' to be fit or at least fit enough. Maybe an injection of pain-duller and strapping to the eyeballs would help.


Cameron Smith, Adam Goodes and Lance Franklin are great individuals but they are a part of a greater whole. Whatever it takes to keep them on the park would be done, whatever it takes to maintain the most efficient teamwork.

South Africa have played Jacques Kallis even though he is far from 100 per cent fit but with the aid of several yards of sticking plaster and a jab he is on the field. The football codes have a stronger mesh of observable teamwork, of back-men defending in twos or packs and of forwards taking the ball forward. Cricket is less dependent on player combinations unless it is fieldsmen taking steepled Mike Hussey-like catches and making David Warner run-outs. Batsmen operate in pairs and need precise communication. Some work better than others. Winning teams take 20 wickets and would prefer their bowlers work in pairs. Pressure at both ends strangles run-scoring and promotes risky strokes. Wickets often follow. Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson were a great opening pair, with Max Walker and Ashley Mallett a terrific support act who added to a great combination. The only time that combination was disturbed was due to injury.


The Australian cricket selectors have decided that no longer will they take their first-choice combination into a grand final. Granted, Peter Siddle got through a few overs in Adelaide, hampered by the absence of James Pattinson due to his mystery side strain. Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus lifted barges and toted a few bales. Hilfenhaus was a marginal selection for the first two Tests ahead of left-arm variety. Mitchell Starc quite possibly would have gotten the nod for the swinging, bouncing WACA no matter how many overs Hilfenhaus racked up last Monday.


Siddle's match total of 63 overs is neither a massive number nor a light spell for a Test bowler; the weather in Adelaide was warm rather than hot. Siddle has decided a vegetarian diet is better for him than high-protein meats … has he consulted the Cricket Australia dietician? Has he been directed by the CA medical staff to remain on that diet? They seem to want to control every variable as in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, but with all the accuracy of a North Korean missile test. The sports science staff appear to do everything else, including telling selectors whom to pick.


Coach Mickey Arthur has been explicit in the instructions he is getting from the sports science people (no names are ever attached, talk about faceless men and women) who are instructing him on who should be playing for Australia. Siddle reckoned he would be OK for the game after three days of rest. He was probably right, for he knows his body and capabilities better than any blood analysis or stress test, and the weather forecast was for much kinder conditions than can often singe a WACA Test.


The human factors of ticker and guts have been severely underestimated, perhaps because sports scientists can't stick them in a test tube, assess them in a psychological profile or measure them in hundredths of a second with a stopwatch.

As a result of sports science over-ruling the cricket professionals, Australia took an all-new seam bowling attack into the grand final. The one constant in the ''attack'' has been the slow bowler who could not bowl the home team to a victory on the wearing fifth-day pitch last Monday. Fresh is the new buzzword, rather than skill or experience. South Africa have retained Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel on the four days' rest they managed since the second Test. Both enjoy a steak and bowl for hours in the nets. An injured Vernon Philander was returned, and fresh at that.


Starc began his fourth Test after bench-warming during the previous two matches; John Hastings began his first. And Mitchell Johnson plays his 48th on the strength of promising reviews but mixed results - much like Shane Warne described the then 32-Test veteran Monty Panesar: ''He bowls like he has played one Test 32 times over.'' It is quite the collection of liquorice all sorts … and it worked in the first innings!


Does this new philosophy mean the selectors will all resign and let the sports scientists take over? Or if Siddle was in the line-up, would Australia have bowled the Proteas out for 150? That's a hypothetical with no answer, but the path has been cleared for a rotation policy to beat all rotation policies - an approach that doesn't normally win grand finals.