Johannesburg:Australian captain Ricky Ponting on Tuesday vowed that his inexperienced side would do all it can to hang on to their number one spot when they take on South Africa in the Test series, starting here on February 26.
A series win for the Proteas in the three-match series will topple Australia from the top spot for the first time in almost six years but Ponting warned the hosts to expect a fight to the finish to maintain their number one status.
In case of a draw or a win of the series by Australia, Ponting's side will retain the numero uno status.
"Anyone who plays an individual or team sport wants to be recognised as being the best. It's what playing international sport is all about.
"We've been good enough over a long period of time to hang on to this trophy, we know what it takes to hang on to it and we know what it will take over the next few weeks to hang on to it again," Ponting, holding the ICC Test Championship mace, said at a press conference after reaching here from Sydney with his squad.
"(Being number one) does mean a lot to us, it's something we've never taken for granted and it's not meant we've haven't worked as hard as any other team. What's made us stand out is that while we've been recognised as number one we've tried to train as if we're number two. We'll continue to try to do that here," he added.
Australia arrived in South Africa off the back of a first home Test series loss in 16 years, the 1-2 defeat inflicted upon them by South Africa, but Ponting said they have faced a similar situation after losing the Ashes in 2005.
"I look on it a bit like the 2005 Ashes (against England) when we lost there for the first time in a long time. From there we went back to Australia, regrouped and worked hard as a team.
"It meant England came to Australia as favourites, all the expectation and pressure was on them and they didn't live up to it. We'll get stuck into work, make sure we're in the best possible shape for the first game and see where we go from there," he added.
Asked whether his side were going into the series as underdogs, Ponting said, "I had it told to me that we were going away as underdogs. The expectation in South Africa is high and so it should be as they played some excellent cricket in Australia a few weeks ago. That's what makes this series so big and so enjoyable for us," he said.
The Australian team will play a three-day warm-up match at Potchefstroom before the first Test here on February 26.
The other two Tests will be played in Durban (March 6-10) and Cape Town (March 19-23).
The Test Championship mace has been in Australia's hands for all but five months (January-May 2003, when South Africa topped the table) since it was inaugurated in May 2001.