Sydney: Top order batsmen will face a "baptism of fire" in South Africa's upcoming tour Down Under as the world's two best pace line-ups face off, Australian coach Mickey Arthur said on Tuesday.
Australia are hoping to reclaim cricket's world number one ranking over a packed Test schedule in the year ahead, starting with the first of three against top-ranked South Africa in Brisbane on November 9. "It's going to be about the batters," Arthur said of the series. "It is going to be about which top six can adapt better, which top six is going to be more consistent over the three Test series. I think both top sixes are in for a real baptism of fire."
National selector John Inverarity said there could be as many five pace bowlers in Australia's squad for the first Test at the Gabba, with rising talents James Pattinson and Pat Cummins and the more experienced Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson among names in the mix. "We're just delighted that we've got the pace bowling on tap that we have," Inverarity said.
The toughest choice for selectors will be that of wicketkeeper and whether to name the more experienced Brad Haddin over Matthew Wade. "We are aware of all the factors; I mean the fact that Matthew is 24 and rising and Brad turns 35 about now," Inverarity said. "Obviously Matthew is more for the future, but we're very focused on who deserves and who will be best against South Africa."
Cricket Australia also defended its decision to withdraw Shane Watson midway through the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa to have the allrounder fresh and rested for the upcoming Test campaign at home. "We need Shane to be best prepared for that first Test match," Arthur said of Watson, 31, who has proven himself with bat and ball in all formats of cricket and is a star of the Indian Premier League. "For us right now his best preparation is coming back and playing some red-ball cricket."
South-African born Arthur admitted there was an extra incentive for him to "get one over" the Proteas in the upcoming series. "On a personal level for me, I guess it has a little bit of extra spice to play against the country of your birth, the country that I coached for five years," he told journalists in Sydney.
But he said "first and foremost" the series was about Australia getting back to the top position in international cricket. "We have a massive opportunity here to get back to number one in the world and that's what this series is going to be about," Arthur said.