Physio says Ponting is 'struggling'

Errol Alcott, the Australia physiotherapist, is worried Ricky Ponting will almost certainly miss the second and third matches against South Africa and there are fears he will not take any part in the one-day campaign. Ponting, who pulled out of the opening game with a stomach problem, could not train on Tuesday and while he remained optimistic of leading the team at Cape Town on Friday, Alcott doubted he would make it.

"I think he's struggling for this weekend, that's for sure," Alcott told AAP. The third match is on Sunday at Port Elizabeth before a five-day break and games in Durban and Johannesburg. "The trouble is we play Fridays and Sundays, so if you miss one week he might miss three games straight away," Alcott said. "We've just got to keep assessing him."

Ponting suffered the injury batting in the nets and Alcott said he was still feeling tender. "He's very optimistic each day, and then I have a session with him and it brings him back to reality again," Alcott said. "He's very powerful, he's got short levers and he's like a little pocket dynamo. Everything he does he's 100%, even his position and also his batting. [The stomach] is the centre of movement for all of us, so it's got to be in good order."

Andrew Symonds and Stuart Clark are also on the injury list, but Clark is hopeful of returning on Friday. Symonds is improving from a hip injury that he first felt a week ago, although Alcott also rated him "doubtful". "We put him in the nets today to do some straight-line hitting, but he was aware of some discomfort, so I'll get him back in the workshop and keep working on him," he said. "You've got to be careful because if you let them out there and they re-injure it then you are looking at two or three weeks longer, and I don't want to do that with a Test series [coming up]."

The first Test is at Cape Town on March 16 and the squad will be named next week. Phil Jaques is expected to arrive in South Africa today as cover for both Ponting and Symonds.