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Australia v South Africa preview

Australia batsman Ricky Ponting is confident he will prove his fitness to take part in the first Test against South Africa in Brisbane.

The former captain has question marks over his participation for the opening fixture of the three-match series after tweaking his hamstring in a Sheffield Shield game for Tasmania last week.

But Ponting is certain he will come through training on Thursday and be on duty come Friday.

Australia, having already lost Shane Watson to a calf strain, will be eager for the veteran to feature in a series that would see them replace their opponents at number one in the ICC rankings should they prove successful.

"I'll probably ramp things up a little bit again tomorrow, some more intense running, a bit more sprint work and have a full-on hit in the nets," said Ponting.

"I've done everything that's required of me over the last couple of days of training.

"I came down early this morning and probably did 20, 30 minutes of running before the rest of the boys got here today, which is part of the process.

"I didn't feel anything today so I expect to be right. I'm right to go, right now."

Ponting will bat at the heart of the Australian middle order and says he has plenty of faith in what a new-look top three of David Warner, Ed Cowan and debutant Rob Quiney can produce.

"Experience-wise, yes, it's probably not what we're used to in the Australian team but skill-wise, and know-how wise and technique-wise, they're fine," he said.

"I think they're all very good players. Ed looked right at home when he first came into the Australian Test team.

"Davey's had moments of brilliance we've all seen and if he can have that through this series then he'll set up games for us very, very quickly.

"I've watched Rob pretty closely over the last few weeks, played a Shield game against him two weeks ago, watched a bit of his innings last week in Sydney and a bit in the nets the last couple of days.

"He, to me, looks like someone who's in control of his game. He's got a lot of cricket under his belt."

South Africa captain Graeme Smith is under no illusions about how difficult the series will be but has set his team the challenge of retaining the number one status they secured this summer with a comprehensive dismantling of former owners England.

"Touring Australia is always tough and the battle for number one probably makes it an even more anticipated series," he said.

"We need to play good cricket if we are going to retain our number one Test ranking. We have the self-confidence of knowing that we have the players that can step up when needed, especially after beating England away from home.

"We have earned the right to come here as the number one Test team after the way we have played over the past few years, and there is a humble inner strength within the squad about facing up to the challenge that is on its way in the next month.

"A series like this is what Test cricket is all about and playing for the Mace is ultimately what all Test playing nations strive for."