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Spinner waits for shot

THE old “worst team ever” line worked a treat for Allan Border's Ashes side in 1989 and Ricky Ponting's men have been motivated in similar fashion in South Africa.

“We haven't really been following the press back home but we understand now that there were some murmurings that maybe we were the worst group to go away,” Australia leg-spinner Bryce McGain said yesterday.

But the most inexperienced side for 20 years enjoyed convincing victories in Johannesburg and Durban this month to claim a 2-0 lead in the three-match series against the Proteas.

The uncapped McGain, 36, missed selection for the opening two matches but has been swept up in the emotion of the squad's achievements.

Debutants Phillip Hughes, Marcus North and Ben Hilfenhaus all played key roles; Hughes and North scoring three centuries between them in the first two Tests.

“I know that there was a lot of belief in the group before we went,” McGain said.

“We've played against each other domestically for a long time. We knew everyone had the talent to put it all together.

“It's fantastic to be involved. There are a lot of worse things to be doing than being 12th man for Australia.

“Clinching the series, I think there would be enormous odds on us doing that before we came across.

“If my role at the moment is running drinks around, that's okay, I'm happy to do it at the moment.

“As conditions change, the team make-up might change. It's probably going to be hard to change a winning combination.”

The Australians resume training today for Thursday's start to the third Test and McGain is likely to get a start with a view to this year's Ashes series.

The Cape Town pitch curator Evan Flint said a spinner normally plays a key role at Newlands.

“Possibly from day three it would normally take spin. The spinner normally plays quite an important role,” Flint said.

However, McGain's Test hopes face a hurdle in the form of opening batsman Simon Katich, whose three-wicket haul in South Africa's second innings in Durban on March 10 served as a reminder of his potential with his left-arm wrist-spinners.

“I'm rapt for him. I'm as excited as he is,” McGain said.

“If I don't get a chance, well, I don't get a chance.

“But I'll be ready to fire when needed.”

McGain's Test spot has effectively been taken by Victorian team-mate Andrew McDonald.

Medium-pacer McGain plays a defensive role keeping one end tight and taking the occasional wicket, so McDonald's removal from the attack would place pressure on McGain to avoid leaking runs like off-spinner Jason Krejza did in the Perth Test against South Africa in December.

McGain, confident he can play attacking and defensive roles, was set for his Test debut in India in October but was sent home for shoulder surgery.

In his comeback game for Victoria in late January, he grabbed five wickets to earn a berth in the tour squad.

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