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Johannesburg Test preview: Australia may field three debutants

February 25, 2009 20:59 IST

Australia, thirsting for revenge after their home defeat by South Africa, could include three debutants in the first Test starting on Thursday.

Opening batsman Phillip Hughes, all-rounder Marcus North and swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus may all feature alongside pacemen Peter Siddle and Doug Bollinger, who are both on their first tours.

Australia have omitted specialist spinners Nathan Hauritz and Bryce McGain and will choose two from North, Hilfenhaus and all-rounder Andrew McDonald.

"It's going to be a great challenge, in particular for the younger guys," captain Ricky Ponting told a news conference on Wednesday ahead of a three-match series that will determine which of the two teams top the world rankings.

"We played some very good cricket at times in Australia but not enough to put a very good South African side away."

Ponting's team have been the dominant force in world cricket for more than five years but South Africa became the first side in 16 years to win a Test series in Australia when they triumphed 2-1 last month.

Experienced batsman Mike Hussey said Australia must raise their game.

"South Africa won the 50-50 moments throughout the series and we will need to play good, hard, uncompromising cricket for longer periods," said Hussey.

"We need to bat for longer and build bowling partnerships for longer too."

Skipper Graeme Smith knows it will be tough for South Africa to repeat their recent victory over Australia.

"The expectation and the hype is great, there's a terrific feeling around the country," he said.

"It's great to see the game in such a good light and to see all the crowds giving a good vibe but we are focusing on keeping emotions out of the game and making sure we play better cricket than Australia.

"We feel capable of doing it but it will take a lot of hard work."

Ponting expects a lively pitch at the Wanderers Stadium.

"It's pretty much all for the faster bowlers here, particularly swing bowlers, given the pitch is a bit soft and the (cloudy) skies that are around," he said.

South Africa will almost certainly field the same team that played in the three Tests in Australia, with vice-captain Ashwell Prince omitted despite having recovered from his broken hand.

"It would be a good, satisfying feeling to be number one and it would be a sign of our success," said Smith.

Squads:

South Africa - Graeme Smith, Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Mark Boucher, Morne Morkel, Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

Australia - Simon Katich, Phillip Hughes, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, Andrew McDonald.

Source:
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