Australia hope to have both their regular opening batsmen, Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh, back for the deciding ODI against South Africa on Friday in Durban. Both batted during Wednesday's nets session and Marsh appeared particularly at ease, having fully recovered from his shoulder injury. He regularly sent the ball sailing onto the roof of the academy that borders the nets.
"For his first hit in a little while, he looked in good touch," Michael Hussey said. "We are hoping for both of them [to be ready]. If they are both fit it will give the captain, the coach and the selectors something to think about."
David Warner proved his worth with a gritty 74 as wickets fell around him in Port Elizabeth, and if Watson as well as Marsh is fit to play, Australia will have to make a tough decision about who will open the batting. Watson is trying to bounce back from back spasms, which resulted in him leaving the field after three overs and five balls during Sunday's defeat. He came out to bat later on, but has not bowled since. "Hopefully he will bowl tomorrow," Hussey said.
Hussey believes Marsh's inclusion will be a boost for Australia because of the maturity he has displayed over the past few years. "He's brought a bit more consistency into his game, he knows it better than he did four or five years ago when there were doubts over his consistency," Hussey said. "He plays very well to his strengths and he is a guy that can change the game very quickly. He can score extremely quickly and put a lot of pressure [on bowlers]."
The availability of the two big-name players is crucial to Australia's quest to clinch the series and affirm their status as the No. 1 ODI team. While some teams play down the importance of rankings, Australia do not and their title as the world's best team is something they do not want to relinquish easily. Hussey said they use it as a motivation to keep winning, because even at the top, there is still something to prove.
"It's something that Michael Clarke continually talks about. He tells us that we are the No. 1 team in the world for a reason and we've got to keep showing the world out there why," he said. "He keeps challenging us in that way. We are very proud of that ranking and want to hang on to that for as long as we can."
Hussey said Australia regard Friday's match as a "grand final", and they are looking forward to the big game because of how closely matched the teams are. "If both sides play at their peak, there is not too much difference," Hussey said. "In the last game we were below par and South Africa played a good all-round game. Having said that they were probably below their game in Centurion and we were pretty close to our best. One-all is probably a true reflection of where the series is at the moment."
Australia lost heavily in Port Elizabeth as the South African batsmen found form after a long winter. Young Patrick Cummins took a pasting, with 73 runs coming off his 10 overs. It was the first, sub-standard performance of his short international career and Hussey was impressed with the way he handled the disappointment. "I was very interested to see how he would react," he said. "He was in great spirits. In our team meetings, he was upfront about what he wanted to do and work on, and I thought that showed great character. It could have been easy for him to go away and be quiet and maybe sulk for a while, which is what I would have done."
At 36, Hussey might be seen as nearing the twilight years of his career, but said he has not thought about retirement. "While I've still got that hunger to play for Australia and while I still enjoy the challenge of being out in the middle, I want to keep playing. It took me ten years just to get one game for Australia, I don't want to wish it away too quickly."
Without him mentioning specific goals, it's clear that one of Hussey's primary aims is to keep Australia at the top and, for now, he has succeeded. South Africa could only have tied with Australia for No.1 if they had swept the series 3-0. It seems as though the series could end all-square, though, with heavy rain forecast for Friday afternoon and evening. "I don't enjoy rain [affected] games, I like it when it's a fair game for everyone," Hussey said. "[But] the rain does add a different element to games, you have to think on your feet and adapt quite quickly."