Ponting believes Smith is ready to debut against New Zealand

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Wellington, Mar. 15 (ANI): Steven Smith has become the second youngest winner of the Steve Waugh Medal, and now is almost certain to make his Test debut against New Zealand after a brilliant season.

He has scored 772 first-class runs at 77.2 - including four centuries - and claimed 21 wickets, capped by a career-best 7-87 against South Australia last Friday.

The 20-year-old was similarly dominant with the bat throughout the Ford Ranger Cup (318 runs at 53), and was a major contributor in NSW's inaugural Champion League Twenty20 victory in India.

His NSW apprenticeship accomplished, Ponting believes Smith presents a near-irresistible case for a Test debut against New Zealand.

Both Ponting and Australia's first-choice spinner Nathan Hauritz are talking up the worth of giving Smith a run against the Kiwis at the Basin Reserve from Friday.

They are not necessarily advocating the sacking of out-of-form Marcus North at No. 6, but both believe Smith is running hot enough to convert his dominant Shield form into immediate Test success if the selectors give him the nod.

"He's not doing much wrong at the moment, is he," Ponting said.

"We wanted him to get that bit more experience at first-class level at home. That's excellent for us. "We haven't talked about the likely make-up of the Test team yet ... but he's done everything right to give himself the best chance to play," Ponting added.

The Basin is to be tailored to spin given that left-arm tweaker Daniel Vettori is likely to be the Kiwis' trump card in the absence of IPL-bound speedster Shane Bond, but a drier-than-normal surface could also play into Hauritz's hands. (ANI)

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