Aussies keen to ride on new-found momentum
Hosts suffer a blow as Watson fails fitness Test; SA bring in Tahir
South Africa’s number one Test ranking is on the line in the three-match series and it lived up to its billing as a heavyweight contest at the Gabba, where the tourists took the early initiative but Australia finished on a high.
A brilliant unbeaten 259 from skipper Michael Clarke combined with centuries from Ed Cowan and Michael Hussey defused a celebrated South African bowling attack and left the Proteas to bat out the final day for a draw.
“We think we came out of that Test on top and thought there were a couple of big blows we landed,” Australia spinner Nathan Lyon said. “We have to come out and start well on Thursday morning and take that momentum from the first Test into the second and third Tests and hopefully win this series and become number one nation in the world.”
Australia’s worst fear came true after Shane Watson failed in his bid to prove his fitness and was left out of an unchanged team. The 31-year-old all rounder missed the drawn first Test in Brisbane with a calf injury but had hoped to play as a specialist batsman in the second, which starts on Thursday.
"At this stage we think he's a couple of days short of his best," Australia captain Michael Clarke told a news conference. "Our job is to get him fully right and we've now got eight days until the third test in Perth."
Left-hander Rob Quiney, who made nine in his single innings on debut at the Gabba, keeps his place in the side and is again likely to bat at number three. Spinner Nathan Lyon is certain to remain in the side at a ground where he was an assistant groundsman only two years ago, while left-armer Mitchell Starc is pushing Ben Hilfenhaus for his place in the likely three-pronged pace attack. South Africa’s bowlers have been left in no doubt that better is expected of them in Adelaide after they toiled on a wicket that offered them little in Brisbane.
Having left specialist spinner Imran Tahir out of the Gabba Test only to then lose all-rounder JP Duminy to a ruptured Achilles, South Africa brought back the spinner in one of two changes to their team.
Paceman Rory Kleinveldt, who ended up with figures of 0-97 on debut at the Gabba, looks set to make way for Tahir’s return with Faf du Plessis coming in for the unfortunate Duminy, who will be sidelined for six months. That will leave Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander -- the top two in the ICC bowling rankings -- to lead the pace attack with back-up from Morne Morkel and all-rounder Jacques Kallis.
Teams (from): Australia: Michael Clarke (captain), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Rob Quiney, Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph, Faf du Plessis, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.