Glenn McGrath went wicketless on day five, but has supported Ricky Ponting's late declaration © Getty Images
Glenn McGrath has defended Ricky Ponting's late declaration during the fourth day's play of the Perth Test against South Africa. Ponting's decision to delay the declaration to allow Brad Hodge, who was playing his third Test, to reach a maiden double-century was criticised in the Australian media.

Ponting said yesterday his intention was to let his bowlers have a shot at South Africa before tea on day four, but as Hodge edged closer to the milestone Ponting changed his mind. McGrath said the decision was unanimous.

"Every guy in the team wanted Hodgy to go on and get that double-hundred," McGrath told AAP. "Ricky did float it around the boys, so it wasn't a decision he made by himself, all the guys were happy. We've generally bowled teams out in under a day, so nobody had any problems with it at all. I'd back us nine times out of 10 to knock a team over in that time."

McGrath also came to the defence of Andrew Symonds, another struggling team-mate, and said his fielding was enough to justify his place. "I think he's only one good Test innings away from cementing his spot in the team," McGrath said. "Hopefully he'll go to Melbourne, score a few runs, if he gets a bowl, take a few wickets. But I think his fielding alone can nearly win us a game. I used to say that about Mark Waugh." With a highest score of 25 from eight Tests, and two wickets at 85.00, Symonds has failed to convert his superb one-day success into the five-day format.

Putting the drawn result of the match down to an uncommonly gentle wicket and some exceptional batting from South Africa, McGrath was concerned at the decline in Australia's traditional sporting venues. "We bowled and fielded pretty well ... to bowl 130 overs and only really create five chances, maybe the odd run out, it means they've batted pretty well and it means the wicket's a pretty good wicket to bat on," he said. "You look at the wickets around Australia, the thing that disappoints me the most is a lot of wickets are losing their character. The wicket yesterday was not your normal WACA wicket and I think it would be disappointing if all wickets around Australia were identical."

Despite having the entire fifth day to claim the eight wickets needed for a 1-0 lead, Australia could manage only three. With the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne starting on Monday, McGrath was optimistic that the drop-in wicket being used would offer more to the bowlers.