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Battle of the big guns begins


  • Home side will be vulnerable, says Hayden
  • Australia has not lost a home series since 1992-93
  • Bracken sure to play

    Perth: Australian opening batsman Matthew Hayden says the home side will be at its most vulnerable against South Africa on the speedy WACA pitch in the first cricket Test beginning on Friday.

    Hayden, , says he rates the South African attack as equal if not better than the 1993-94 line-up led by fast bowler Allan Donald and swing specialist Fanie de Villiers.

    Nel's role

    ICC has rated South Africa's Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock among the world's top seven bowlers, while Hayden also rates Andre Nel highly.

    "I think Shaun is bowling particularly well — his record is just magnificent (377 wickets at 22.09)," Hayden said. "It's comparable to that of Glenn (McGrath) really in a lot of ways and does a similar sort of job as well."

    Hayden said England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff was the only other bowler apart from Nel who could go around the wicket and still swing the ball away from the left-handed batsmen.

    Australian captain Ricky Ponting said that fast bowler Nathan Bracken would start the Test ahead of Stuart Clark. Bracken performed well in his last Test appearance, helping Australia defeat the West Indies.

    Ponting said he expected South Africa to gamble on the fitness of star all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who has an elbow injury, when it finalises its team on Friday morning.

    Staying out of sledging row

    South African captain Graeme Smith, meanwhile, says he is trying to stay out of the sledging controversy involving the teams.

    Smith, who upset the Australian players four years ago by complaining about their on-field verbal taunts, said on Thursday that his players were expecting to be abused by the crowd during the three-Test series.

    "Those things (sledging) haven't been an issue for us from the start since we arrived here," Smith said. "We haven't made one comment about sledging. There will be instances I'm sure in the series where there'll be heated moments."

    Smithsays beating Australia means coming out on top in the "big pressure situations."

    Australia has not lost a home Test series since 1992-93 against the West Indies.

    The teams:

    Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt.), Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Brad Hodge, Mike Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath. 12th man: Stuart Clark.

    South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (capt.), A.B. de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, Justin Kemp, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel, Charl Langeveldt. 12th man: Jacques Rudolph. — AP

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