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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 16:13 GMT
What Waugh leaves for Ponting
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport

Shane Warne
One of the game's biggest stars will soon be available again

The Test team that Steve Waugh leaves in the hands of Ricky Ponting has been regarded as one of the greatest of all time, and rightly so.

It has beaten everybody and in all venues bar Sri Lanka and India.

In Ponting and Matthew Hayden it has the two of the best batsmen in the world and in Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie two of the finest bowlers on the planet.

And how could we forget? After a year in the sin-bin, Shane Warne is poised for a comeback in February.

In 2003, Australia may have lost three Tests.

But the first two of those defeats came in "dead" rubbers - when the competitive edge was not quite there.

The recent loss in Adelaide was a more serious setback, since it gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with two matches to play.

But by dominating and winning the Melbourne Test they have now set up a series-decider in Sydney - a match they are odds-on to win.

Nasser Hussain, the former England captain who played 23 Tests against the Aussies and was a loser on 14 occasions, has said that Australians treat Test matches as extended one-day internationals.

Justin Langer
Ponting will depend on the experience of players like Langer

Batsmen wearing the dark green helmet in the current decade have never gone in for ponderous starts.

And that is a theme that is unlikely to change under Ponting, whose own innings are hallmarked by characteristic Aussie chutzpah.

What Waugh's retirement does of course create is an aching void in the middle order.

The bold choice would be to hand that berth to Michael Clarke, the 22-year-old from New South Wales.

Clarke is already establishing himself smoothly in the one-day fold and will have license to thrill his home supporters in the floodlit fixtures of the VB Series in January.

Queenslanders will sound the drum for Martin Love, capped five times by his country, but only hitting top gear against Bangladesh.

In theory, neither man would have first call on the number six spot.

Simon Katich is the current incumbent, and Darren Lehmann, the man he replaced, will soon be back from injury.

But Clarke is the man for the future and it would be unfair to deny him his chance too long.

Patient approach

Damien Martyn and Justin Langer are both due good series and their more patient approach could serve the team well in Sri Lanka.

Ponting has an immediate chance, in his first series in charge of the Test team, to win in one of the two countries where his illustrious predecessor failed.

To do that, he will need Warne and MacGill bowling well in tandem and McGrath, Gillespie and Brett Lee all on song.

McGrath, who has had a rough old season with injuries, is nearing the end of his career.

Brad Williams's crucial four-wicket haul in Melbourne has elevated him top of the pecking-order to replace him.

Impressive youngsters Matthew Innes and Shaun Tait stand by, and as things stand Ponting's Australians will take just as much beating as Waugh's unstoppable bunch.



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