Ponting set for Bellerive Test bonanza

Ricky Ponting could break Steve Waugh’s mark as Australia’s most-capped Test cricketer in front of home state fans in Hobart after the international summer schedule was announced on Thursday.

If Ponting plays the three Tests to open the summer against South Africa in November, the scene will be set for him to create Australian cricket history at Bellerive Oval in the first match of another three-Test series against Sri Lanka.

Former national skipper Ponting sits on 165 Tests, just three shy of the record mark of 168 set by Waugh, his predecessor as captain.

The 37-year-old’s Test career appeared on the ropes last summer, until he produced a breakthrough century in Sydney and a stirring double ton in Adelaide against India.

It seems Ponting, the second-highest run-scorer in Test history, is determined to continue through to next year’s Ashes series.

The Gabba will host its first Test against South Africa in 49 years when world heavyweights the Proteas start their campaign in Brisbane on November 9.

South Africa beat Australia 2-1 when they last toured in 2008-09, and drew 1-1 with Michael Clarke’s team when they met in a dramatic two-match series last year in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The Proteas can go to No.1 in the Test rankings if they beat England in a three-match series starting in the UK on Thursday, and will finish off their Australian tour with Tests in Adelaide (November 22-26) and Perth (November 30-December 4).

It was a shame last year’s series between South Africa and Australia didn’t have a third-match finale – and this latest series will serve as an eagerly-awaited rematch.

Last November, Australia collapsed to be all out for 47 in the first match at Newlands after being 9-21 at one stage. But the tourists rallied to record an unlikely two-wicket win at The Wanderers as light began to fade on the fifth day.

Sri Lanka begin their first Test visit to Australia since 2007 in Hobart on December 18.

Then Melbourne will host the Boxing Day Test and Sydney the New Year’s Test to wrap up the series – as Sri Lanka look to break through for a maiden five-day win Down Under.

From Sri Lanka’s 10 Test matches in Australia, two draws are the best they’ve been able to come up with.

Sri Lanka came to Australia last summer for a triangular one-day series with India, where they were ultimately beaten 2-1 in the finals by the Aussies.

In mid-2011, Australia managed a series win in Sri Lanka in Clarke’s first Test series as skipper.

The twin Test series will be followed by a pair of five-match, head-to-head one-day international series – the first against Sri Lanka and the second against the West Indies. There are also two Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka and one against the West Indies.

The ODI series against the West Indies will be highlighted by the first international cricket match featuring Australia in Canberra.

The summer will feature 43 days of international cricket plus three tour matches against South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

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