Langer included in squad for Sydney
Ricky Ponting's satisfaction at taking a 1-0 lead has been boosted by the inclusion of Justin Langer to his squad for the series-deciding Test starting in Sydney on Monday. Langer, who injured his hamstring in Perth, stayed with the team in Melbourne and Ponting was told of the opener's inclusion after his side beat South Africa by 184 runs.
"[Langer] has done everything this week to indicate he's ok," Ponting said. "He's had a few hits in the nets and did some sprint work yesterday." Phil Jaques, who scored 2 and 28 on debut, will remain on standby over the weekend and his omission was the only change to the 12-man squad.
South Africa's hopes of retaliation in Sydney have been damaged by Makhaya Ntini's withdrawal due to a knee tendon injury. Ntini was forced to bat with AB de Villiers as a runner today and was the last man out as his team fell for 181. "Losing Makhaya is a big blow," Graeme Smith said, "because he's an out and out strike bowler." He will return to South Africa for treatment with the aim of being fit for the return series in March.
With Andrew Symonds' dramatic explosions with bat and ball over the past three days the Australians have filled all their problem spots and Ponting was confident of sealing the series next week. "The conditions suit us in Sydney," he said, "and Stuart MacGill has a great record there so we'll probably go in with a similar team."
Ponting said his decision to bat first on a damp and difficult surface had been justified and he was pleased to pull away from South Africa following their competitiveness over the first eight days of the series. "We played really well," he said. "We bit the bullet and did the hard yards on day one and after Michael Hussey and Glenn McGrath played well on day two we knew South Africa would have to bat really well to get a decent total. We bowled well, fielded well and have dominated the first two Tests to lead 1-0."
Australia Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting (capt), Brad Hodge, Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist (wk), Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Stuart MacGill, Nathan Bracken.