Australia are spending time in South Africa, playing practice match against the Board President’s XI and interacting with children from Soweto. But a greater task awaits them tomorrow – facing up to South Africa in a bid to save their number one spot.
Ricky Ponting has not had it easy, especially in the last six months. Things have been pretty much downhill since their fateful tour to India. Stuart Clark has failed to take the field. Brett Lee broke down midway through the series against South Africa as did Andrew Symonds. Matthew Hayden has retired after the farcical finish at Sydney. And Michael Clarke is hot on his heels to become the next Australian skipper.
Now he leads a team, only three of which – Clarke, Hussey and himself – have toured South Africa the last time the two teams featured in a Test series in South Africa three years ago. With the likes of twenty year old debutant opener (youngest since Craig Dermott to play for Australia) Phillip Hughes, Ben Hilfenhaus, spinners Bryce McGain, Nathan Hauritz, Andrew MacDonald and Marcus North who could well make his debut, Ponting is not banking on a whole lot of experience.
Australia managed to fight off South Africa in the third Test in Sydney to hold off South Africa from breaching the number one Test spot. But it appears their task could be made harder should they find themselves a spinner short. While South Africa have announced a largely unchanged squad from the victories team that won the Test series 2-1 in Australia, Australia will see new faces and by announcing a line up of twelve that does not include the two spinners, Australia are relying heavily on their fast bowling attack led by Mitchell Johnson to lead their team to an unforeseeable victory.
Perhaps Ponting’s greatest assignment since becoming captain will be this tour to date.
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