Potchefstroom: Australia launches a three-Test tour of South Africa in this university town on Sunday when it plays against a team packed with players bidding to win a place in the South African Test team.
A three-day match against South Africa 'A' is the only preparation for Steve Waugh's team before the first Test starts at the Wanderers in Johannesburg next Friday. The start of the tour, during which Australia's World Test Championship title will again be on the line, was overshadowed by the controversy over Waugh's axing from the Australian One-day team. Potchefstroom, a sleepy town 120-km (74 miles) West of Johannesburg, is the venue chosen by the Australians as the base in which they will prepare for next year's One- day World Cup, in which it now seems Waugh will not be involved. South Africa 'A' is likely to provide the Australians with a good work out on what is normally an excellent batting pitch. The South African selectors will meet in Potchefstroom on Monday to pick their side for the first Test. Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph, the 'A' team opening batsmen, head the list of Test candidates on show, together with Daryll Cullinan, an established Test star who missed the recent tour of Australia. Smith and Rudolph, both left-handers and both aged 21, have had outstanding domestic seasons. Rudolph was picked for the tour of Australia where he was controversially left out of the team for the third Test after originally having been chosen. While Rudolphs season ran out of momentum through inaction in Australia, Smith piled on the runs while the national team was away, topping the run-scorers in the local One-day competition. Cullinan, second to Gary Kirsten in South Africa's all-time Test run-scoring list and level with Kirsten with most Test centuries (14), missed the start of the season because of a knee injury. He played in only one first-class match before the team to Australia was chosen. Cullinan has a notoriously poor record against Australia, especially against star leg spinner Shane Warne, but his overall record and his experience are likely to earn him a recall after South Africa's batting proved fragile during a 3-0 whitewash in the series in Australia. Another player looking to make an impression on the selectors will be fast bowler Andre Nel, who shone in early-season Tests against Zimbabwe but was then discarded. South Africa's bowlers took a hammering in Australia and Nel or fellow paceman Charl Langeveldt could force their way into the reckoning for the Test side. The teams: South Africa 'A': Dale Benkenstein (captain), Graeme Smith, Jacques Rudolph, Ashwell Prince, Daryll Cullinan, Andrew Hall, Goolam Bodi, Thami Tsolekile, Claude Henderson, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel and Arno Jacobs (12th man). Australia: Steve Waugh (captain), Adam Gilchrist (vice-captain), Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehman, Shane Watson, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Stuart MacGill, Andy Bichel, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath.
Akram too shocked at Steve Waugh's axing