Adelaide: Australia built momentum in a rain-hit draw in Brisbane and go into the second Test against South Africa starting in Adelaide on Thursday determined to channel that into a series-leading result. A victory for the home team will also seriously threaten South Africa's No. 1 ranking, and Graeme Smith and his team know that they will have to be much better with the ball on a track unlikely to offer the bowlers much in the first couple of days at least.
The drawn first Test showed that Australia are capable of standing up to the No. 1 ranked side, South Africa, in the three-match series. The batting of Ed Cowan, skipper Michael Clarke and 37-year-old Michael Hussey showed that the home order will take some serious effort to be dismissed on what is expected to be a bat-first surface at the Adelaide Oval. Clarke collected his second Test double-century this year, Cowan proved he deserves to bat at the highest level in scoring his maiden hundred and Hussey sent out another reminder that age matters little when the mind and body are working on overdrive.
Watson fielded and batted at training in Adelaide on Monday but did not bowl, which proved detrimental to his chances as he was excluded from the eleven declared to take field on Thursday morning. The announcement of an unchanged line-up meant Tasmania's Rob Quiney kept his place for another match at No. 3 despite a poor debut last week.
With their No. 1 ranking on the line this series, South Africa know they have to significantly improve on Brisbane show.
The other man under the scanner is Ricky Ponting, who has three ducks in his last three Tests against South Africa, the last of which came in Brisbane. His further participation in the series could depend on how he handles the willow in batting-friendly Adelaide.
South Africa are likely to change their bowling attack after allowing Australia post 565 for 5 in their only innings at the Gabba. That got confirmed on Wednesday when the tourists replaced pacer Rory Kleinveldt, who returned with figures of 0 for 97 on debut, with legspinner Imran Tahir in the 12-man squad from which they will choose their eleven. Injury to JP Duminy has also created a chance for Faf du Plessis to make his Test debut.
Most of South Africa's batsmen clicked in Brisbane, with Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla scoring centuries and opener Alviro Petersen getting 64. AB de Villiers juggled the wicketkeeper's role with scores of 40 and 29 not out, and shrugged off the notion that he was being burdened by saying he felt like he could have scored centuries in each innings.
"In Brisbane, we had them under pressure but just let them go. Hopefully this time we can really squeeze them and break the momentum," said Petersen. "In the last year or two, we have played good cricket, that is why we're the No. 1 Test team in the world and that will count for a lot."
Australia (Final XI): 1 Ed Cowan, 2 David Warner, 3 Rob Quiney, 4 Ricky Ponting, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Nathan Lyon.
South Africa (Probable XI): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Jacques Rudolph, 7 Faf du Plessis, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Imran Tahir