Australia captain Ricky Ponting suggested his team's test series win over South Africa to avenge a recent loss at home wasn't as unexpected as widely believed.
The Australians beat South Africa by 175 runs to win the second test and lead 2-0 in the three-match series, ensuring they remain the No. 1-ranked team in the world. In December and January, Australia lost 2-1 to the Proteas, its first home series loss in 16 years.
"Maybe people have overlooked the fact of how close the series in Australia was at times _ we couldn't get over the line," Ponting said Tuesday at Kingsmead of the Proteas' victories at Perth and Melbourne after fighting back from difficult positions.
"The new guys in the team _ Phillip Hughes, Marcus North, Ben Hilfenhaus _ have been unbelievable for us. It feels great whenever you can bounce back after a test series defeat. In 2005, we lost to England and 12 months later we beat them 5-0."
Asked about the Australians' chances in the Ashes series later this year, Ponting said: "All of a sudden we look good now; it's the nature of this game. You make a little change in personnel here and there and get some confidence in your group."
South Africa captain Graeme Smith said the series loss was disappointing after what his side had achieved in the last year and a half.
"We weren't able to keep our intensity, while Australia were very good as a unit," he said. "They were very disciplined, and kept us under pressure for long periods of time.
"This is our first defeat in 10 or 11 series. We must be honest with ourselves, and take (the defeat) on the chin. We must look at ourselves and bounce back."
The hosts showed fight Tuesday but it came too late to save the match. They will reflect on their poor first-innings total of 138, putting them on the back foot, and they will want a more disciplined performance from their bowlers in Cape Town.
The final test in Cape Town starts on March 19.