Australia v South Africa: Third Test preview; Ponting set for swansong
By Joe Drabble - Twitter: @SkySportsDrabs. Last Updated: 30/11/12 6:27am
There is more than just a Test series at stake when Australia and South Africa meet for the third and final Test match at the WACA on Friday, live on Sky Sports.
The battle for the ICC No.1 world ranking, as well as the retirement of a certain R.T.Ponting, has increased the intensity ahead of the series-decider in Western Australia.
Just four days after a heroic rear-guard effort from Faf du Plessis salvaged South Africa a draw in Adelaide, both teams will renew acquaintances at Australia's most hostile venue.
A lot has happened in those four days, most notably Ricky Ponting's decision to call time on a glittering international career which has spanned over 17 years.
It would perhaps be fitting for the Tasmanian, who has achieved almost everything in the game, to bow out by leading his beloved nation back the Test summit in his last hurrah.
The WACA was where it all started for Ponting as an emerging 20-year-old back in 1995 and he immediately showed the world his promise with a fluent 96 - only a questionable lbw decision denying him a dream debut.
What Ponting and Australia would give for a 42nd Test hundred in his 168th and final Test. It appears written in the stars.
Back in the team and expected to bat one place above Ponting is fit-again Australia all-rounder Shane Watson.
It will be the first time Watson has batted at No.3 in a home Test match for the Aussies, who have been forced into a major reshuffle in their bowling department.
Seam duo Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle have both been rested after their tiring exploits in Adelaide and James Pattinson has been ruled out through injury - meaning Australia could field an entirely different bowling attack to the one which failed to take the six wickets required for victory on the final day of the previous Test.
Mitchell Johnson, who registered career-best bowling figures of 8-61 the last time these two sides met in Perth, is expected to be recalled alongside Mitchell Starc, with Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings battling it out for the vacant third seamer berth.
South Africa's preparations have also been hampered as they sweat on the fitness of key all-rounder Jaques Kallis, who will undergo a morning fitness test after pulling a hamstring in Adelaide.
Vernon Philander is available again after missing the last Test and could be added into an all-seam attack in place of leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who created a new world record for the most runs conceded without taking a Test wicket with 0-260 in Adelaide.
What they said...
Ricky Ponting: "I've prepared this week and I'm hungrier than ever. I want this win more than any game I've ever played in."
Dale Steyn: "We didn't come down to Australia to draw."