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Endgame is the ‘most important’ of his career

Associated Press

Posted: Nov 30, 2012 at 0313 hrs IST
      

Perth: For Michael Clarke and his Australians, the third Test against South Africa has morphed into a match they’re describing as a grand final. Clarke made the reference after the second Test, where South Africa batted through the last one and a half days to salvage a draw and Australia finished two wickets short of a victory.

The analogy took on extra meaning after ex-skipper Ricky Ponting announced that the Perth match would be his 168th and last after 17 years in the baggy green cap. Ponting made his Test debut against Sri Lanka at the WACA in 1995, scoring 96 runs.

Having one more shot at regaining the No. 1 Test ranking is Ponting’s main career ambition at the moment. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity going into what I believe is like a grand final,” Ponting said. “I’m hungrier than ever and I want this win more than any game I’ve ever played in. To get back to the top of the tree and No. 1 in the world, there’s no better time for me to finish.’’

Agreed Michael Clarke: “I think Ricky’s announcement will only give us more inspiration to do everything we can to try to win this game,” Clarke said. “It’s more special now because it’s been such a great, hard-fought series. It’s the pinnacle. It’s not very often you get the opportunity to go out and beat a team and go back to being the top test team in the world. We’ve got a lot to play for.”

The No. 1 Test ranking is at stake after draws in the first two Tests -- South Africa only needs a draw to retain top spot; Australia needs to win to have any chance of reclaiming it.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith said after two battling draws this series, and win on the last tour here in 2008, his team was in a good frame of mind. “To be here, five days away from another series win in Australia, many teams dream of that coming to this place,” he said. “There’s clarity over the next five days. We have had a few disruptions on this trip but we’ve scrapped hard. Australia have played really well, and we haven’t been at our best, and we’re still here.”

The Australian team will be without the entire trio of pacemen who started the first two Tests, with James Pattinson ruled out for the summer with a rib problem and Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus considered too fatigued with only three days between matches after having to take on so much extra load in his absence at Adelaide.

South Africa has its share of concern over veteran allrounder Jacques Kallis, who is still considered a chance to bat in Perth but won’t be able to bowl due to the hamstring strain he picked up in the second Test.

Smith said South Africa was awaiting a fitness report on Kallis and wasn’t expecting to finalize its starting lineup until Friday morning. If Kallis is out, Ryan McLaren could get a Test call up only days after being drafted into the squad.

Live on Star Cricket: 8am

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