"(He s) the greatest Australian batsman in the modern era. Of course we ll miss him," Cowan told reporters in Hobart, where Australia will host the first of a three-test series against Sri Lanka starting on Friday.

"(It s) not just what he does on the field ... it s what he gives the group off the field. But that s now in the past. "It s up to us, as the other guys in the group, to step up. And there s a big void to fill in terms of leadership.

"And I m not talking about the captaincy. Good teams don t have one leader, they have five or six guys who take that role on -- not tactically, but leading the group at training which Ricky did, and around the change-rooms, so it s a great challenge for other guys to step up. "That s the other side of the coin."

Following three consecutive failures with the bat, Ponting scored eight in his final innings as South Africa ruined his Perth farewell with a 309-run rout to win the series 1-0. The sudden departure of the 37-year-old Tasmanian, who batted at number four in recent years, has left Australia scrambling to work out a succession plan for its batting order.

Despite the brilliance of Michael Clarke and fellow middle order batsman Mike Hussey, Australia s top order has proven vulnerable under pressure, and their dramatic second innings collapse led to South Africa s win in Perth.

In replacing Ponting, Australia has thrown another lifeline to Phillip Hughes, who has already been dropped twice in his four-year test career for proving consistently susceptible to short-pitched bowling