Ricky Ponting won his sixth toss in a row against South Africa and decided to have a bat on what he contently termed “a good wicket” in Durban. Jacques Kallis has spent the better part of the last couple days trying to put everyone at ease as to how he was made captain in the absence of an injured Graeme Smith, but there was still a fair amount of apparent reluctance. Having to field first against a form line-up is no envious way to start a Test South Africa need to win to avert a whitewash.
Spin has played more of a role at Newlands than any other venue in the country and with Marcus North failing to come up from his illness the journeyman legspinner Bryce McGain was finally handed a debut. The last few months have not been short of drama for McGain – his first tour with Australia was cut short in October when he was sent home from India with tendon damage in his shoulder and his second trip began with a missed flight. At 36 years and 359 days, McGain has become Australia’s oldest debutant since Bob Holland in 1984.
As expected, South Africa went in with a new-look opening pair of the debutant Imraan Khan and returning Ashwell Prince. The allrounder Albie Morkel makes his Test debut, replacing brother Morne.
It has been a dramatic switch for both teams since the previous series. Australia have turned around their fortunes dramatically, with rookies playing key roles, and in doing so they have managed to pass on the restless, testy cape they wore at home to South Africa. Under a steely blue Durban morning sky, the heat is definitely on the hosts.
Australia 1 Phillip Hughes, 2 Simon Katich, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Michael Clarke, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Andrew McDonald, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Peter Siddle, 10 Bryce McGain, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus.
South Africa 1 Imraan Khan, 2 Ashwell Prince, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis (capt), 5 AB de Villiers, 6 JP Duminy, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Albie Morkel, 9 Paul Harris, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Makhaya Ntini.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo