Skipper Michael Clarke says Australia's mental scars from a painful first-Test defeat have healed (Getty Images)
Johannesburg: Australia's mental scars from a painful first-Test defeat have healed, captain Michael Clarke said on Wednesday.
Wounds, however, can be reopened, which will be the aim of South Africa in the second and decisive Test starting on Thursday, in front of a typically pitiless crowd at Johannesburg's Wanderers ground.
Australia showed unexpected vulnerability at Newlands last week when they capitulated to 47 all out, their lowest total in more than 100 years, and their bowling attack was blunted at the end of the eight-wicket defeat inside three days.
Facing their first Test series loss in South Africa in over 40 years, the normally-staunch Australians are being grilled over their psychological state.
Clarke, in just his second series in charge, fueled the debate after the Newlands Test when he questioned his team's fighting spirit.
Five days later, he insisted the scars have gone, however, and Australia were ready to have "a red-hot crack" at South Africa.
"I think we got rid of them (the mental scars), to be honest, after we left the change room after the day's play in (Cape Town)," Clarke said. "We had a really long chat after the game and we made a pact with each other that once we left there, the ground, that we were going to look to this second Test."
It's a simple equation for Australia, who must win the second Test to level the contest and save their long-standing unbeaten run here. They have won their last four series in South Africa and last lost here in the apartheid era.
"As a captain and as a player ... you want to win every game that you play. Well, we have no choice out there. We have to pick a team to try and take 20 wickets," Clarke said.
"We also have to pick a team that is going to be positive and confident with the bat as well, and be willing to take the game forward. We have no choice."
Change to the line-up is certain, but not the degree.
Australia have already been forced to call in the inexperienced Usman Khawaja to bat at No. 3 in place of Shaun Marsh, who went home with back problems.
"There is the possibility of a couple of other changes as well," Clarke said, suggesting players could be dropped and pay for that lackluster defeat at Newlands.
Despite the batsmen's dramatic failure in the first Test, the bowling line-up is more likely to be altered, with strike bowler Mitchell Johnson badly misfiring and the tourists needing to bowl South Africa out twice.
Teenager Pat Cummins is raring to be given a debut, putting Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle under pressure after Clarke backed the 18-year-old on the eve of the match.
"He's (Cummins) done everything right, he's keen as mustard for an opportunity," Clarke said. "He's bowled well in the nets. For some unknown reason, I seem to face him every time I'm in the nets as well, so I think he's keen to bowl at the skipper and let him know he's ready."
"Yeah, I don't want to give too much away right now but there's certainly a chance that he could be playing tomorrow (Thursday)."
While Australia says they ended their soul-searching after the stunning loss last week, South Africa will undoubtedly look to take advantage of any Australian insecurity at one of their favorite grounds.
It's at the Wanderers that South Africa chased down Australia's 434 to win an incredible one-day international in 2006, scoring a then-record 438.
Before last Friday, that was probably Australia's most epic defeat.
"I think if we can get them under pressure again, maybe the amount of pressure they've been under this week can come out," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said, describing the support for the home team at the Wanderers - South Africa's most passionate ground - as "forceful."
"When you're doing well here as a home team it's a fantastic place to play," Smith said.
However, South Africa have not done well here against the Australians in Tests, losing the last four matches. That record provides Australia with much more than just a glimmer of hope after one of their most desperate weeks.