ADELAIDE: Ex-Australia captain Ricky Ponting says he's refreshed and primed to take on No. 1-ranked South Africa in a three-Test series next month.
The 37-year-old batsman has focused intensely on his fitness since his last Test against the West Indies in April, saying he made the most of a rare winter off after quitting limited-overs international cricket.
Australia's leading Test run-scorer shrugged off speculation last year about his retirement plans and intends to keep playing as a specialist batsmen under captain Michael Clarke as long as selectors pick him.
"I have got myself in a good state now, and feeling good about everything, so I am right where I want to be," Ponting was quoted as saying after scoring an unbeaten 85 for Tasmania in a domestic first-class match against South Australia on Thursday.
Ponting has scored 13,346 runs at an average of 52.75 in 165 Tests matches since his debut in 1995 and provides a wealth of experience at the top of the order, but critics say he's getting slower with age.
He had a career-reviving series against India in the last southern summer, posting a double-century, a century and three half centuries in four Tests, then struggled in difficult batting conditions in the West Indies, finishing off that series with a gritty half century to help the Australians clinch a 2-0 series win. He has long maintained he wants a chance to make amends for losing the Ashes with another tour to England next year.
Ponting said it was "weird" having time off in winter -- Australia played an away series against Pakistan and reached the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup -- but "I gave my body and mind a bit of a rest because I bashed myself up pretty much during the summer last year."
He said he took a couple of months off and then had "about 12 weeks where I just trained myself into the ground really, physically"
"I got myself in good physical shape ... and feeling really good and feel like I'm moving really good."
The South Africans have a well-balanced team and "they have got probably the best fast bowling attack going around," Ponting conceded, "But saying that, we have had some great contests against them since I have been playing for Australia.
"We know that if we do everything as well as we can in Australia this year, they will find it hard to beat us."
The first Test starts at Brisbane on November 9, with Adelaide and Perth hosting the second and third Tests. Australia hosts Sri Lanka in a three-Test series starting December 26.