While the emotional scars of defeat are still fresh, Ricky Ponting is adamant his new-look Australia side remain a force.
Ponting has 'high expectations'
While the emotional scars of Australia's first series defeat on home soil in 15 years are still fresh, Ricky Ponting is adamant his new-look side remain a force despite suffering consecutive setbacks against India and South Africa. Amid predictions of a rough ride ahead for the No 1-ranked Test nation - a title they will relinquish to the buoyant Proteas should they lose the third Test starting in Sydney today - Ponting remains resolute.
"I guess right at the moment it's a little bit hard to know what the expectation out there is of the team," Ponting said. "I still hold very high expectations of the group and I don't think I'm being unrealistic by doing that either because I think as you saw in Perth we did most things right through that game but weren't good enough on the last day. "And last week some of our cricket was excellent."
Indeed Ponting, a mainstay of the all-conquering Australian Test team for more than a decade, insists a lack of consistency - and not a lack of ability - is to blame for the recent run of defeats. "At the end of the day our results will speak for themselves anyway, so far it hasn't been terrific but as I said and I keep coming back to, our very best cricket's been very good and it's about trying to maintain that for longer periods of time in Test matches," he said.
"If you actually look at it that's been the difference between the [Australian] team of yesteryear really and this side, is that other side was able to maintain things for extended periods of time in Test matches. So that's what we need to learn." Meanwhile, the Proteas captain Graeme Smith insists complacency is not a factor for his men heading into the Sydney Test despite having already clinched the series 2-0.
"Generally the squad is quite calm and when I look around the squad today I don't see anyone arriving not looking interested or not looking like they want to do something in this game," Smith said. He also claimed the inclusion of the New South Welshman Doug Bollinger in the Australia side for the third Test in Sydney is a sign the hosts lack 'clarity' in their selection policy. Bollinger, who was picked for recent tours of the Caribbean and India on the back of a prolific domestic campaign in 2007-08, will make his long-awaited Test debut today at the SCG after edging out the Tasmanian Ben Hilfenhaus as the replacement for the injured spearhead Brett Lee.
While he has earned his place in the starting XI by virtue of a string of strong performances, Smith insisted the inclusion of a second left-arm quick alongside Mitchell Johnson had caught the tourists off guard. "Having Hilfenhaus in [the squad] in Melbourne and now picking Bollinger here probably shows a little bit of lack of clarity in terms of where they want to go, so that has surprised us," Smith said. "It is his home ground but Hilfenhaus must be feeling a little bit hard done by."
* With agencies