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Australia lost on the final ball in Perth to follow their one-day and Test defeats to South Africa in a summer where their aura has faded. "Ricky is keen to play every game and these next two games were no exception," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said. "However, it was always planned that Ricky would have a break at this time."
A 13-man squad was picked for Friday's second contest in Melbourne and Sunday's fixture in Sydney. "While this is a difficult decision, given the current performance of the team, in our view it is essential that Ricky has an opportunity to prepare for the forthcoming South Africa tour," Hilditch said. The side leaves in two weeks for the Test and one-day campaigns.
"My absolute priority is to the Australian cricket team," Ponting was quoted as saying by AAP. "I wanted to play on through the coming week and continue to lead the team in the series against New Zealand. However, the decision was made by the national selection panel as part of their plan to rest all players at appropriate times during this year. I have reluctantly accepted their decision and will be eagerly awaiting my return to the team."
Ponting's absence and Shaun Marsh's hamstring injury, which he picked up while fielding in Perth, left two gaps and Ferguson and Voges were the fortunate ones. "Both are exciting young players with the attitude and talent to succeed at this level," Hilditch said. A new opener will have to be found, with James Hopes, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke, who is the captain, possible options alongside the new talent.
Voges scored 80 not out in front of Hilditch for Western Australia on Sunday to remind the selectors of his talents. An attacking batsman, Voges, 29, will hope to add to his two Twenty20 games and single ODI in 2007.
Ferguson, from South Australia, is 24 and has 302 runs in the FR Cup this season and had a strike-rate of 140 in the Twenty20 competition. At the end of last summer Ferguson sat down with his manager, father and Mark Sorell, South Australia's coach, and decided to go to England to play league cricket to "get back into the habit of getting big scores".
Ever since he was the vice-captain of the Australia Under-19 side, Ferguson has been earmarked by good judges as a man likely to one day play for his country. However, until this season he had a tendency of failing to build on his starts and he said 2008-09 had been a breakthrough summer.
"It's been pleasing to be able to convert a few scores that I've managed to get off to a good start and then go on with it," Ferguson said after learning of his call-up. "It's probably been a stumbling point for me in the 18 months leading up to this season. It has been a bit of a breakthrough."
He learnt of his selection five minutes after being dismissed for 115 in South Australia's Sheffield Shield loss to Victoria at the MCG, where the national selector Merv Hughes had also watched him make 81 in the first innings. It was his coach Sorell who delivered the happy news, which shocked Ferguson as much as anyone.
"Thrilled to bits," he said. "I haven't had a chat to any of the selectors [although] obviously we've got Jamie Cox in South Australia so I see him around a fair bit. But this is a surprise for me."
He has grown into a stylish performer, but Ferguson said in December he was a "very boring batsman" as a child. "Because I wasn't a big kid naturally, I'd always scored quite slowly because I couldn't hit the boundaries or the sixes," he said. "I never really thought of myself as a flashy player, but I did at times struggle with gear changes, being able to go up a gear when you do get some loose bowling and then bringing it down a gear when they're doing well."
Australia squad David Warner, James Hopes, Callum Ferguson, Michael Clarke (capt), David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Cameron White, Adam Voges, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Bracken, Ben Hilfenhaus, Shaun Tait.