Melbourne:The Australian team's supremacy is being challenged like never before, conceded spin legend Shane Warne but insisted that even in the face of tougher competition, it was too early to write off the world champions.
"I was disappointed in some of the speculation about the Australian team, and the criticism it received," Warne wrote in his column for 'The Herald Sun', reacting to Australia's loss in the Perth Test where they failed to defend a mammoth 414 runs.
"Let's remember it was just the first of three Test matches, not a series loss. Both teams played outstandingly well, but South Africa was just too good over the five days. There is no disgrace in being outplayed," he reasoned. Warne said instead of criticising the Aussies, all credit should be given to Graeme Smith and his men for their record chase.
"Santa delivered an early Christmas present to the tourists with their marvellous run chase on the now not-so-bouncy and fast "flat road" in Perth. "It was an amazing chase and the record books back that up," he said.
Warne also threw his weight behind under-fire Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting, saying that he has it in him to lead the team out of the current period of uncertainty.
"It is a test of the Australian team's spirit, hunger and attitude - how driven and hurt by the loss they are, both individually and as a group," Warne said.
"I have total confidence in Ricky Ponting and the boys. They will come out swinging like a Jeff Fenech haymaker and be ready come Boxing Day," he said referring to the second Test against South Africa here starting December 26.
Warne also had a word of advice for struggling pace spearhead Brett Lee, urging him to bowl as fast as he can without bothering about the economy rate.
"After all the criticism Brett Lee has copped after the Perth Test, I have some simple advice for him: Just go out there and let it rip," he said.
"Brett is a champion, so write him off at your peril. His mindset though has to be attack, not keep it tight. He must look to take wickets and bowl fast rather than worry about the economy rate," he suggested.