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By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Australia’s pace bowlers would be pushing the boundaries of acceptable aggression with a barrage of short bowling at South Africa’s batsmen in this week’s first test against the Proteas, captain Michael Clarke said on Thursday.
South Africa come into the three-match series as the top ranked team in test cricket with four batsmen in the top 10 of the individual standings and looking to win back-to-back series on Australian soil.
Clarke said the likes of Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and AB De Villiers could expect a hostile reception from his seamers on what is expected to be a bouncy wicket at the Gabba, where the first match starts on Friday.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a lot of short stuff, that’s for sure,” he told a news conference on Thursday.
”When you’ve got four guys who can bowl at well over 140 kilometres per hour, they’re not shy on bouncers whether it be in the nets or in the centre.
”The young quicks know what they have to do, they know how important it is that they execute their skills. But they know they need to keep the same aggression they had last summer against India.
“They understand there’s a line they can’t cross but we’ll be pushing that line.”
Clarke said he had not decided whether to use Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc as a four-pronged pace attack at the Gabba and leave spinner Nathan Lyon to handle the drinks.
“The wicket’s changed a bit since yesterday and I need to wait and see if it changes any more come tomorrow morning,” he added.
“I guess weather plays a big part, whether it’s overcast or the sun’s shining, the forecast is okay for the week but I guess we just want to have a good look at it.”
The weather on Thursday was overcast with a few scattered showers and intermittent sunshine over the Gabba pitch, which had a green sheen to it.
Australia’s plans on how to target individual batsmen - short balls to Amla, Kallis and JP Duminy, for example - were exposed in a supposed leaked “team dossier” published by the Courier Mail newspaper on Thursday.
Clarke said it had made an “interesting read” but said it had not been assembled by the team and he had played no part in it being leaked - if it was indeed intended as a psychological ploy to unsettle the South Africans.
The 31-year-old said he had been telling his players to focus on their own game rather than their much-vaunted opposition.
”You’d be silly not to look at footage of the opposition but the player you’re facing is irrelevant.
”We’ve got as much talent as any team in the world, especially our young fast bowlers, but if you don’t execute your plans you won’t take wickets in first grade.
“If you do execute your plans, you’ll take 20 wickets against India and South Africa is no different. We beat a very good India team 4-0 last summer and our preparation has been the same.”
Clarke said former captain Ricky Ponting was “100 percent fit” after a hamstring problem, and he had every faith that Rob Quiney, who will make his test debut in place of the injured Shane Watson on Friday, would prove up to the task.
“I really hope Rob grabs this opportunity with both hands and earns that number three position with Australia,” he said of the 30-year-old lefthander. (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)