Adelaide, Dec.2 : Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting has warned his team to step up for a heavyweight bout against South Africa later this month.
"We have to play at our optimum and there's no hiding that fact. Right through India we were a long way below our best and we were a bit off our best in Brisbane. We've taken a step closer here. We know the South Africans are a well-balanced side who have a really good fast bowling attack and five of their batters are in the top 10 run-scorers for 2008," Fox Sports quoted Ponting, as saying.
"They are a good side and we're not kidding ourselves. We've got a long way to go if we want to stay the No1 team in the world," he added. "The hardest thing to do in cricket is to beat Australia in Australia.
South Africa is a very good team with an exceptional bowling attack of Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Mahkaya Ntini leading it and they're exceptionally well led by Graeme Smith. I think he's one of the best captains in world cricket. They'll come here thinking they've got a chance but Australia has proved once again they are the toughest team in their own conditions," said Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori.
South Africa arrives in Perth on Sunday for an extended preparation now that the Champions League, scheduled for this week in India, has been cancelled following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
The only question for the Australians heading into the first Test against South Africa in Perth is do the selectors include a spinner or recall all-rounder Shane Watson in conditions that have traditionally hampered slow bowlers?