Ricky Ponting\'s last stand adds spice to S Africa decider

Agencies Posted: Nov 29, 2012 at 1536 hrs
Perth Former undisputed top dogs Australia are desperate to ensure Ricky Ponting ends his career in style by reclaiming the number one ranking from South Africa in the final Test starting tomorrow.

The Australians have not been at the summit of Test cricket since 2009 but draws in the first two Tests mean they can replace the Proteas as the number one team with a win in Perth.

South Africa only need a draw to retain their crown.

Ponting\'s announcement today that he would retire after the match, which will see him equal Steve Waugh\'s Australian record of 168 Tests, has added spice to an already keenly anticipated clash.

Captain Michael Clarke said Australia, currently ranked number three in the world, were determined to see Ponting\'s stellar international career end on a high note.

\"It will only give us more inspiration, there is no doubt about that,\" Clarke said of Ponting\'s surprise retirement.

\"It is a grand final for us, it is why you play the game, to play this final Test match against the number one team in the world and know that if you win you will be the number one team in the world.

\"Ricky\'s announcement will only give us more inspiration to do everything we can to win this game.

\"Ponting, who has scored 13,366 Test runs at 52.

21 including 41 centuries, has just 20 runs at 6.

66 in this series and said he was determined to produce something special in his final appearance on the Test stage.

\"This is an unbelievable opportunity,\" said the 37-year-old.

\"I said to the boys I am hungrier than ever and I want this win more than probably any game I have ever played in.

\"I will do whatever I can to contribute to a great team performance and if that leads to a win for the team and we get back to the top of the tree and number one in the world, there is no better time for me to finish.

\"South African skipper Graeme Smith said Ponting was the \"most competitive man I have ever played against\" and conceded his retirement would fire up the Australians.

However, he said the Proteas were ready for the challenge.

\"That is not for us to worry about,\" he said of Ponting\'s decision and the impact it might have on the match.

\"Our job is getting ourselves ready and competing.

From our perspective, nothing really changes.

\"There is a calmness and clarity in the group going into this Test.

\"Australia could field a completely revamped bowling attack, with their three fast bowlers from the second Test in Adelaide, which ended on Monday, all ruled out.

They are also considering going with a four-man pace attack, relegating spinner Nathan Lyon to 12th man.

Clarke said Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus were still too fatigued from Adelaide to play in Perth, while James Pattinson has been sidelined by a side injury.

Left-armers Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson will both play their first Test of the series, while at least one of uncapped duo Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings will make a Test debut.

Smith said the new Australian attack would be another hurdle for his team, especially with the introduction of the two left-armers.

\"It is a whole new attack and a whole new mindset from a batting perspective,\" he said.

\"Two left-handers now involved, different style of bowlers.

As a batting unit we need to mentally prepared for that, and we will be.

\"Smith said Jacques Kallis would be given until the last minute to prove his fitness and was hopeful the all-rounder would play.

After suffering a hamstring injury during the second Test in Adelaide and unable to bowl, Kallis nonetheless helped save the match, scoring 58 and 46 despite batting down the order.

He had reached his 44th Test century with a brilliant 147 in the first Test in Brisbane.

Smith declared Vernon Philander \"ready to go\" after being a late withdrawal from Adelaide with back soreness and said he wanted to play a specialist spinner, hinting Imran Tahir was set to make way for Robin Peterson.