Siddle and Hilfenhaus likely to play
Australia's captain Ricky Ponting expects his fast bowlers Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus to play in the second Test in Durban despite their niggling injuries following the opening win in Johannesburg. Both men were rested during Wednesday's training session and were due to be assessed on Thursday afternoon as Australia's terrible run of injuries continued.
Hilfenhaus had a back problem and Siddle was suffering from an injury to his left foot, which added to the existing concerns for the attack after the twelfth man Doug Bollinger went down with an abdominal strain during the first Test. The Tasmania fast bowler Brett Geeves was flown in as cover for Bollinger and trained on Wednesday, while the Western Australia fast man Steve Magoffin was also rushed over as a standby player for Siddle and Hilfenhaus.
"I don't think they are really in doubt," Ponting said of Siddle and Hilfenhaus ahead of Friday's second Test. "But when there are sore spots like that and you've got to go into back-to-back games you've got to seriously consider before you go in with guys who have got niggles, especially when they are relatively inexperienced and new bodies to cope with Test match cricket.
"One of the reasons I didn't enforce the follow on after the first innings was that all the bowlers had bowled their 20 overs and you could see they were starting to tire a little bit. If I had've kept them out there again then who knows what some of those injuries now might be, those are the things you've got to take into consideration."
Over the past few months Ponting has learnt how difficult it can be to keep his frontline fast men on the park. Australia embarked on the tour without Brett Lee (foot and ankle surgery) and Stuart Clark (elbow). Throw in back stress fractures for Shane Watson, persistent hamstring concerns for Shaun Tait and ongoing back issues for Ashley Noffke, who toured the Caribbean last year, and Australia's options are looking thin.
"With Geeves here and Magoffin here there aren't a lot left standing around Australia after those guys," Ponting said. "It's just been an amazing six or eight months as far as injuries go and it's not just our bowlers. There's Symo [Andrew Symonds] and a lot of guys have had a bad run. I guess it probably makes some of our performances over the past few weeks or few months a little bit better when you take all those things into consideration."
Mitchell Johnson also reported hamstring soreness after the Wanderers win but is in no doubt for the second Test. The wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said it was difficult to identify a specific reason for the spate of injuries.
"The fitness of our players is always of a high standard," Haddin said. "We've had a busy schedule at home and the bottom line is you're professional sport and you're going to get injuries from time to time."
Haddin said the players were feeling positive following their success in Johannesburg but they would be wary not to place too much focus on the past week. One more victory would ensure they take the series and retain the No. 1 Test ranking, which looked like it was headed South Africa's way following the series in Australia.
"Morale is pretty good in the camp and it was during the Australian summer," Haddin said. "The first Test was obviously a great occasion, there was some great cricket played. But in all honesty that's already gone before us. Now we've just got to concentrate today and leading into the Test match on getting our preparation right for the second Test."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo