Under heavy criticism for losing the one-day series against South Africa, Australia skipper Ricky Ponting on Tuesday said that his side was hit hard by a string of injuries which kept most of his key players out of action.
Australia lost the three-match Test series before conceding the ODI series yesterday when they suffered an eight-wicket loss at the hands of the Proteas in the fourth match in Adelaide.
"We have players out of our side. Let's not forget that - Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Stuart Clark, Nathan Bracken. That is a big chunk of our first selected side," Ponting was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph.
"But it isn't an excuse as to why we have played like we have," he added.
With the last one-dayer to be played on Friday, Ponting said his squad would be strengthened by the return of vice-captain Michael Clarke and seamer Nathan Bracken for the inconsequential fifth and final game in Perth.
Bracken, who missed the last match nursing a calf strain will join the team along with Clarke who had to seat out of three games due to his thumb injury.
With the experience duo back in his rank, Ponting would hope that the new players like David Hussey, Cameron White and Ben Hilfenhaus also start clicking in unison so that they can salvage the last match and retain their number one ranking.
"I think all the guys you have seen on display for the past few weeks have got the skill and talent to play international cricket and play it well.
"It is a learning curve for the less experienced guys. It is about trying to find ways to improve yourself," he said.