Australia v South Africa 2008-09 / News

Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Sydney, 5th day

Ponting backs out-of-form Hayden

Peter English at the SCG

January 7, 2009

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Matthew Hayden's 39 in the second innings at the SCG was his highest score of the summer © Getty Images

The out-of-form Matthew Hayden retains the faith of his captain but the opener's immediate future will be known when Australia's limited-overs teams are named on Thursday for the South Africa fixtures. Ricky Ponting said he would love it if Hayden, who has struggled for runs since returning from a heel injury in India, kept playing.

"I'd have him in my team every day of the week," Ponting said. "He's a champion player and bloke and great for our team at the moment. Those experienced guys are great to have around the team while you're rebuilding."

The squad for Sunday's first Twenty20 in Melbourne will be named alongside the outfit for the following five one-day internationals. If Hayden is missing from the team a Test return is unlikely, although the selectors have also publicly supported him. Hayden has not told his team-mates he is planning to depart despite the 39 he scored in the second innings at the SCG being his highest contribution of the Australian summer.

"I'm pretty good mates with Matty and have known him for a long time," Ponting said. "I have no indication or inclination either way. He showed a lot of good signs in the second innings of the game. I don't know one way or the other at the moment. If anything, I'd be saying it's all pretty positive that he's going on, otherwise I think I would have known."

The fast bowler Mitchell Johnson is expected to be rested from parts of the one-day campaigns involving South Africa and New Zealand over the next month. Johnson has taken on a huge workload since India and he led the bowling in Sydney while Brett Lee was out with a foot injury.

"He's shouldered a lot of the responsibility for the attack and come on in leaps and bounds," Ponting said. "There was some negativity about his place at the start, but he has started to show everyone over the past six or eight months how much of a quality player he is. He's a pretty complete package."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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