Clarke tips Ponting to shine
Skipper confident predecessor will rack up the runs in South Africa
Last Updated: 18/10/11 3:56pm
Ricky Ponting: Backed to be in top form during South Africa series
Australia captain Michael Clarke says he expects former skipper Ricky Ponting to be better than ever during the upcoming one-day international series with South Africa.
Ponting stepped down as Test and one-day captain following the World Cup earlier in the year but the 36-year-old has opted to carry on playing under Clarke.
While his Test form has been in decline over the last two years, his performances with the bat in 50-over contests have remained relatively solid, including a knock of 90 not out in Sri Lanka over the summer.
And Clarke thinks that Ponting will come out firing when Australia face the Proteas in the first clash of a three-match ODI series in Centurion on Wednesday.
"Ricky's very experienced and talented and I believe he still has a hell of a lot to offer Australian cricket in both ODIs and Tests," Clarke said.
"I have a feeling he's on the brink of one of his best series in his whole career. He batted well in Sri Lanka, he made runs for Tasmania last week and, watching him in the nets, I wouldn't be surprised if he's the man of the series and the leading run-scorer."
Opening batsman Shane Watson is suffering from a hip problem and Shaun Marsh has a shoulder injury but Clarke has not yet ruled either player out of the match at SuperSport Park.
Clarke said: "There's still a chance they'll play. We won't pick the team until tomorrow morning, so that gives them another 24 hours and time for us to make the right decision and the smart decision with three ODIs and the tests to play, because they're both very important players for us."
Conditions in South Africa traditionally favour the seamers and Australia have travelled with young pacemen Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Mitchell Marsh to support established duo Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger.
"I'm really excited because there's plenty of talent there. Conditions in South Africa probably favour the pace bowlers more, although we do still have a couple of spin options," Clarke added.
"Pat Cummins is a very exciting young prospect, he's quite fast, he moves the ball and he has great knowledge of fast bowling for an 18-year-old."
South Africa will be captained by Hashim Amla in the absence of AB de Villiers and have included several spinners in their squad, but the home skipper is still concerned by the lack of a specialist death bowler.
"The death overs are probably the most tense time for me," Amla admitted.
"But I found in the T20s that as long as the bowlers have a plan it's okay. You can't control everything and things aren't always going to go according to plan, so you can't take it to heart too much.
"It's a matter of damage control and Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn have done well for us, and Lonwabo Tsotsobe too, even in the powerplay overs."