MATTHEW Wade's elevation to first-choice wicketkeeper in all formats was confirmed this morning as he was named ahead of Brad Haddin in Australia's 12-man squad.
Wade, who turned 25 last week, deputised for Haddin in Australia's last Test outing in April, in the West Indies as the veteran flew home to be with his gravely ill daughter. In the last Test he scored a dashing 106, the only century of a three-Test series played in difficult batting conditions.
Haddin's pride at leading his Big Bash League team Sydney Sixers to the Champions League Twenty20 title in South Africa this morning has now been contrasted with confirmation his Test career is likely to end at its current tally of 43.
"Whichever way we went the Australian team would have been happy," Clarke said on Channel Nine of the wicketkeeping decision, praising both glovemen.
Haddin, who turned 35 earlier this month, did not inherit the Test wicketkeeping berth until he was 30, after Adam Gilchrist's retirement. He was, however, the undisputed choice due to many years of dominant Sheffield Shield performances.
Haddin's state, New South Wales, now faces the difficult choice of whether to persist with Haddin as gloveman or whether it gives that role to the highly rated Peter Nevill, 27. Both wicketkeepers are capable of justifying their place in the Blues' team as a specialist batsman.
Australia's batting line-up is unchanged from the West Indies tour, with David Warner and Ed Cowan at the top followed by Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, captain Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey.
Seemingly the only lingering issue with the final line-up is whether Australia selects an all-pace attack.
Pacemen Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus are guaranteed starters, while James Pattinson is also likely to feature. That would leave a choice between off-spinner Nathan Lyon and left-arm paceman Mitch Starc.
Lyon has endured a difficult start to the domestic season but excelled in last summer's Gabba Test. Starc, who debuted in Brisbane this time last year, is yet to play a first-class match this season but has improved markedly since the past Australian season, firstly for Yorkshire in English county cricket and then for Australia in limited-overs. He also was player of the tournament in the just-completed Champions League, where he was part of the Sixers' champion line-up.
AUSTRALIA (from): Michael Clarke (c), Ed Cowan, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mike Hussey, Nathan Lyon, Ricky Ponting, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitch Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.
SOUTH AFRICA (from): Graeme Smith (c), Hashim Amla, A.B. de Villiers, J.P. Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Rory Kleinveldt, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile.
MORE TO COME