Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Perth December 22, 2008

Haddin backs Lee to hit his straps

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Brad Haddin is in form but his team's struggles have meant a tough initiation into the Australian side © Getty Images
 

In less than a month Brad Haddin has gone from a man under fire to owning one of the safest spots in Australia's Test side. Several of his team-mates do not have the same security and the lack of bowling threats in their crushing loss to South Africa in Perth has even left Brett Lee facing questions over his role in the side.

Lee's pace was down, his swing was minimal and one wicket for the match was a disappointing return. But Haddin said from his bird's-eye view behind the stumps it was clear that Lee was not bowling as badly as his results suggested.

"I have kept to Brett for a long, long time," Haddin said. "In any fast bowler's career they pick their times these days and bowl their spells when the game suits. I think Brett's not too far away. I think the spell he bowled on day four just showed that it's still there and that was an encouraging sign."

After Australia made only one breakthrough on the final day at the WACA, where South Africa chased down 414 with six wickets in hand, the captain Ricky Ponting said Lee's lack of incisiveness was a concern. Lee was named in the squad for the Boxing Day Test, but Ponting chose his words carefully and did not guarantee Lee a position in the final XI.

While most of the bowling was a worry, the top order's failure to build a big platform in either innings also drew criticism from Ponting. Haddin's form was not part of the problem and his breathtaking 94 on the fourth day continued his outstanding form after he made 169 in the previous Test against New Zealand.

Another triple-figure score beckoned when Haddin launched consecutive sixes over long-on and long-off from the spinner Paul Harris and then followed with a four straight down the ground. It took him within one clean strike of his century and the desire to bring up the hundred with another six was all-consuming.

Haddin was stumped advancing to Harris trying for one last six in the same over but he said looking back, his aggressive instincts could not be curbed. "In all honesty I'd like to say I would have done something different but, thinking now, I wouldn't have," Haddin said. "The adrenalin was going and to be perfectly honest, I couldn't pull it back."

He finished the match with 140 runs after making 46 in the first innings and the continuation of his form from Adelaide was one of the positives Australia could take from the game. "It was [encouraging] from a personal point of view but at the end of the day you want to set your team up and you want to win Test matches," Haddin said. "To contribute the way you did and not win a Test match is disappointing. But we go back and start all over again in Melbourne."

Losing was an unfamiliar feeling to Haddin's predecessor Adam Gilchrist but Australia's struggles this year have meant Haddin has entered the side at an awkward time. A series failure in India might be followed by one against South Africa.

"I think it's a great time to come into the Australian team," he said. "Whenever you come in to represent your country is always an honour and I don't think there's ever a bad time to come into an Australian cricket team. The important thing out of it is that we've got a contest and this is what everyone has been craving - the fans, the players, everyone."

Australia have never come back from 1-0 down to win a three-Test series and the last time they lost the opening Test of a home series was in 1988-89 when West Indies went on to take the contest 3-1. Haddin said Australia could not be written off just yet. "We are not going to roll over, I can give you that," he said. "Obviously 1-0 down - it puts more excitement on such a big series."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo