SYDNEY // Top order batsmen will be up against it during South Africa's tour of Australia as the world's two best pace bowling line-ups go head-to-head, Mickey Arthur, the Australia coach, said yesterday.
Australia are hoping to reclaim cricket's world No 1 Test ranking over a packed schedule in the year ahead, starting with the first of three matches against the top-ranked South Africans in Brisbane on November 9.
"It's going to be about the batters," Arthur said of the series.
"It is going to be about which top six can adapt better, which top six is going to be more consistent over the three Test series. I think both top sixes are in for a real baptism of fire."
John Inverarity, the national selector, said there could be as many as five pace bowlers in Australia's squad for the first Test at the Gabba, with rising talents James Pattinson and Pat Cummins and the more experienced Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson among names in the mix.
"We're just delighted that we've got the pace bowling on tap that we have," Inverarity said.
The toughest choice for selectors will be that of wicketkeeper and whether to name the more experienced Brad Haddin over Matthew Wade.
"We are aware of all the factors; I mean the fact that Matthew is 24 and rising and Brad turns 35 about now," Inverarity said.
"Obviously Matthew is more for the future, but we're very focused on who deserves and who will be best against South Africa."
Cricket Australia also defended the decision to withdraw Shane Watson midway through the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa to have the all-rounder fresh and rested for the upcoming Test campaign at home.
"We need Shane to be best prepared for that first Test match," Arthur said of Watson, 31, who has proven himself with bat and ball in all formats of cricket and is a star of the Indian Premier League. "For us right now his best preparation is coming back and playing some red-ball cricket."
The South-African born Arthur acknowledged there was an extra incentive for him to "get one over" the Proteas in the series.
"On a personal level for me, I guess it has a little bit of extra spice to play against the country of your birth, the country that I coached for five years," he told journalists in Sydney.
Elsewhere,India's record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkar is to be conferred with membership of the Order of Australia, visiting prime minister Julia Gillard said in New Delhi yesterday.
"Cricket is of course a great bond between Australia and India. We are both cricket-mad nations," Gillard, on a three-day state visit to India, said.
"I am very pleased that we are going to confer on Sachin Tendulkar the membership of the Order of Australia.
"This is a very special honour very rarely awarded to someone who is not an Australian citizen or an Australian national."
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