Ponting is happy with new-look Australia
CRICKET: Australia captain Ricky Ponting said yesterday his remodelled side were beginning to take shape ahead of next year's Ashes series against England.
England won the Ashes for the first time since 1987 this year and Australia's selectors have subsequently wielded the axe and introduced several new players.
"There has been a lot of change since we got back from England," Ponting said after his side beat South Africa by 184 runs to win the second Test in Melbourne yesterday. "There have been a number of guys who have debuted and come back because of injuries.
"There has been a lot of change and I think things are getting a lot closer to how I would like them."
Since losing the Ashes, batsmen Damien Martyn, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke and bowlers Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz have been discarded. Phil Jaques became the third player to make his test debut in six Tests since the side returned from England when he opened the batting in Melbourne.
Mike Hussey and Brad Hodge made their Test debuts aged 30 during the series against West Indies while the selectors also recalled bowler Nathan Bracken (three previous tests) and all rounders Andrew Symonds (two) and Shane Watson (one).
Hussey has scored 595 runs with three centuries at an average of 85, while Hodge scored his maiden double century against South Africa in Perth.
Bracken, a left-arm swing bowler, has proved an effective foil to the opening pair of Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee, while Watson has been unable to prove himself after he dislocated his shoulder in the first Test against West Indies.
His injury opened the way for Symonds, who finally showed the potential the selectors had been looking for in the second Test against South Africa.
The batting all rounder had scored just 101 Test runs in eight innings at an average of 12.62 and his problems were compounded when he made a first-ball duck in the first innings as Andre Nel ripped through the middle order.
However, a career-best three-wicket haul from his medium pacers in South Africa's first innings seemed to give him confidence that carried over in the second innings.
His first scoring shot was a six over long off and as he and Matthew Hayden set about the bowlers, Symonds relaxed and played his natural game, smashing five fours and six sixes in a 54-ball 72.
"You don't want to have a lot of change but there is a time in every team when you get injuries and guys get dropped," said Ponting.
"I think the way we have managed to keep our playing standards reasonably high has been very satisfying.
"During the Super Series (against the World XI) and the West Indies series there have been a lot of guys coming in and out and it seemed to be a pretty smooth transiton for all the guys coming in so that was very pleasing."
Australia: First innings 355 (M. Hussey 122, R. Ponting 117, M . Hayden 65; A. Nel 4-84); South Africa: First innings 311 (H. Gibbs 94, A. de Villiers 61); Australia: second innings 321 for 7 decl (M Hayden 137, A. Symonds 72).
South Africa: Second innings (Overnight: 99-6; Target: 366 runs)
G Smith c Gilchrist b McGrath 25
A de Villiers st Gilchrist b Warne 8
H Gibbs b Warne 9
JKallis c Gilchrist b Symonds 9
APrince c Hayden b Warne 26
J Rudolph b Symonds 4
M Boucher c Ponting b Warne 5
S Pollock not out 67
N Boje b McGrath 13
A Nel c Gilchrist b McGrath 2
M Ntini b MacGill 2
Extras (lb-6 nb-4 w-1) 11
Total (all out, 74 overs) ... 181
Fall of wickets: 1-39, 2-45, 3-58, 4-64, 5-72, 6-82, 7-130, 8-166, 9-178, 10-181.
Bowling: G McGrath 15 - 3 - 44 - 3; B Lee 11 - 4 - 23 - 0 (nb-1); S Warne 28 - 7 - 74 - 4 (nb-3 w-1); A. Symonds 4 - 2 - 6 - 2; S MacGill 16 - 7 - 28 - 1.
Australia won by 184 runs.