Aussies in a tailspin

MELBOURNE - The Proteas will be well aware upon arriving in Melbourne that they've helped to usher in a comparative rarity in Australian cricket - an uncertain, possibly even introspective, period.

MELBOURNE - The Proteas will be well aware upon arriving in Melbourne that they've helped to usher in a comparative rarity in Australian cricket - an uncertain, possibly even introspective, period.

Yesterday the Australian selectors announced a 13-man squad for the Boxing Day Test, with off-spinner Jason Krejza being dropped. In comes Nathan Hauritz, another off-spinner with passing acquaintance with both the ODI and the Test side.

Also added to the squad, which now numbers 13, is Tasmanian quickie (fast bowler), Ben Hilfenhaus. Clearly there are decisions to be made and issues to confront. The Australian team hasn't been in this position for years.

The inclusion of Hilfenhaus and the fact that Peter Siddle - who bowled tirelessly but without impact in Perth - remains in the squad suggests that Brett Lee's days may be numbered, though it's difficult to see him being dropped for the Melbourne Test.

Ricky Ponting gave mixed messages about Lee after the first Test, admitting that the Waca didn't see Lee at his best.

"He took one wicket and as we saw his pace wasn't there as we all would have liked it to have been," said the Aussie skipper.

Ponting said later, however, in clear reference to Lee: "One thing that I've learnt through this game is that you don't write champion players off."

There are mixed messages coming out of the entire Australian structure, in fact, because their selectors have made changes to the bowling, while Ponting was critical of the batting after Perth.

The South Africans, who followed the Australians on a later flight out of Perth, only arrived in Melbourne last night.

They have opted not to practise today but will do so tomorrow and on Christmas morning before relaxing with a Christmas lunch at their hotel.

Smith has already identified Christmas lunch as an important ritual for the team, though this probably doesn't extend to persuading Jacques Kallis to dress up as Father Christmas.

As important is the fact that the Proteas prepare well and hard for the second Test because they're expecting a real dogfight with the wounded Aussies.

"Knowing them, they'll come back hard in Melbourne," Smith said. "That's their nature. But more than anything else we've made them think a lot of things and that was important for us. We've taken a lot of self-belief out of this Test win besides the result." - Avusa Cricket Correspondent

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