Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Brisbane

Injured Watson's Test hopes slim

Daniel Brettig

November 4, 2012

Comments: 38 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson drives one down the ground, Queensland v New South Wales, Sheffield Shield, Brisbane, 1st day, November 2, 2012
Australia's selectors will consider whether Shane Watson should play as a batsman only © Getty Images

Shane Watson's only faint hope of playing against South Africa at the Gabba is as a batsman alone - and the team performance manager Pat Howard has revealed the national selectors are considering the possibility.

While Ricky Ponting is almost certain to be fit in time for day one at the Gabba, Watson is in severe doubt for the first Test of the summer due to what the team physio Alex Kountouris called a "minor grade" left calf strain. The possibility of Watson being fit to bowl in the match is negligible, but John Inverarity's selection panel have discussed Watson's value purely as a top six batsman.

"It has been discussed but there's no firm decision on that," Howard told ESPNcricinfo. "Those considerations have been brought up in the past, so right now without speaking on behalf of the selection panel, it is being considered. Everything's possible.

"Shane and Ricky are in doubt, but they're both reasonably new injuries and we'll know more soon, they're most certainly both in contention for the Test to differing degrees, and we'll have standby players ready over the next couple of days in and around the squad.

"We have some very initial scans on Shane, but our physio and chief medical officer, one has arrived in Brisbane and the other is arriving this afternoon, the selection panel will be arriving in from different parts of the country this afternoon as well. When they all get the big picture, not only on Shane but other players, then they can make some decisions over the next couple of days leading up to the Test."

The floating of Watson as a batsman is a departure from the team's previous view, which had stressed the importance of having him fit as both a bowler and a batsman. Last summer Watson himself floated the possibility of playing as a batsman during the home Tests as he recovered from a hamstring strain, but that was ruled out.

Watson said in Brisbane on Sunday that he was feeling some stiffness in the muscle and while he had not been ruled out of the Test, past experience had made him aware of the risks of rushing back too soon.

"It's still a little bit stiff, I'm just hoping it settles down over the next couple of days," Watson said. "Alex [Kountouris, the team physio] had a little look at it, we're just seeing how it sort of pans out over the next couple of days ... see whether I'm a chance to be able to play in the first Test.

"It's not as bad [as it's been], it's only pretty minor but I know how things can go if you don't really look after it and get it right the first time. I'll be certainly making sure I get it right the first time."

The selectors are set to name shadow players for both Watson and Ponting, though the latter is expected to be recovered from a hamstring niggle in time to play. Should Watson be ruled unfit for the Test, the Australia A captain Andrew McDonald's allround virtues are likely to be considered, though his presence would necessitate a shuffle in the batting order.

While the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka and the Champions League in South Africa have seriously undercut the preparation of both Australia and South Africa for the forthcoming Tests, Howard said he took some consolation from the fact that the Shield round had allowed players to be tested.

"I think we're fortunate we have this round of games to start dealing with these guys coming in, if it happened next week that would be more of an issue," Howard said. "We really want the Test players to go back and play in the Shield and contribute to the competition and get themselves ready, and I think that process has been well dealt with in the last couple of days."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by jplterrors on (November 5, 2012, 3:14 GMT)

they should bring Haddin in as a specialist bat like wat Tug was sayin lol, could also chuck Paine in there to open instead of Cowan. Healy should be coach then axed for Gilchrist to be coach. Also bring in Mitchell Johnson as a BATSMEN he batted well vs Saffas last time....

Posted by MattyP1979 on (November 5, 2012, 2:38 GMT)

This could be a big blow for the Aussies. Far too many injuries occuring in OZ land ATM and needs to be sorted. For those knocking Cowan I think your crazy and seems to have a decent enough game. Revolving door selection policy is the bad old Eng way. This will be a tough couple if years for Aus and they need stalwarts like Cowan (and a fit side) to make sure things go forward.

Posted by MinusZero on (November 5, 2012, 1:06 GMT)

"Purely as a top six batsman"? What is Inverarity smokin'? Watson is good as an allrounder, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. But the parts by themselves are not good enough on their own for test cricket.

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 5, 2012, 0:59 GMT)

@Meety, thanks a lot for the clarification. Well first lets look forward to the Australia South Africa tests starting this Friday.

Posted by Meety on (November 4, 2012, 20:35 GMT)

@ Sinhaya on (November 04 2012, 11:19 AM GMT) - just saying IF, the NSP is forced to make changes to the batting line up after a possible poor series v Sth Africa, we MAY have an inexperienced line up come Boxing Day. SL would then be a more experienced side than Oz & most of the SL players have played in W/C finals etc & COULD handle the situation better. That said, I believe Oz will play well against Sth Africa & it will be alll moot! @Jono Makim - LOL! Yes, he obviously has been held back in Sth OZ - LOL! Mate I suppose if you go by the saying "winners are grinners", then the Richo @#3 selection was a Berry masterstroke! Did result in his best FC bowling performance to date!

Posted by   on (November 4, 2012, 11:38 GMT)

A. I think Watson should sit this one out. B. I think whoever replaces him needs to be a seam bowling allrounder. I'd like to see Henriques in there because by the looks of it he has developed his game a lot in the last twelve months. I also wouldn't mind seeing Butterworth or Faulkner playing at 7 behind Wadey, they are both capable of taking wickets in bursts. I think the first focus needs to be on taking 20 wickets..... @Meety, perhaps Kane Richardson could be a like for like swap, bowling and batting at 3... :D

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 4, 2012, 11:19 GMT)

@Meety, you mean our average bowling attack can exploit the new Aussie faces on Boxing Day? Well I am having less hopes for us in test matches as lower the expectations lower the disappointment. If I lower my expectations, like I did when we toured SA last year, we pulled off a test win in Durban. So wanna be like that when we are in Australia too especially for the tests. ODIs I am optimistic. I think they will give Ponting a chance to play his 168th test in Hobart no matter whether he fails against SA. Who knows, should Hussey fail I doubt he will be dropped as the selectors will love to give Hussey a chance against us knowing his excellent test record against SL.

Posted by ahmed786moti on (November 4, 2012, 11:16 GMT)

I really think they should rest Watson and ponting for the 1ste test if they are not fully fit and haven't recover fully from their injury's. this will give the selectors a chance to see what other talent there is for Australia in test. Watson and ponting are 2 of the most valued players for Australia, with all respect to the others.Khawaja deserves a chance I think he is an great talent and just need more match practice.

Posted by Meety on (November 4, 2012, 10:52 GMT)

@onlinegamer55 on (November 04 2012, 08:26 AM GMT) - I'll clarify. I put Maxwell forward only as a ponder as to whether that's what the NSP would be thinking. I did it for the following reasons 1. Watto can't bowl, therefor we don't have as much cover for a 3-prong pace attack, 2. Maxwell could hold up his end IF we went with a 4-prong attack. As for Khawaja - he has a very good record @ the Gabba & felt his twin 50s at the Gabba in a low-scoring match v NSW was quality runs. I am a Hughes fan - I think he is fantastic, he is just going thru a learning phase & I expect him in the not too distant future to be back in the Oz side plundering attacks all around the world. Anyways - it's all moot the NSP went with Quinney.

Posted by   on (November 4, 2012, 10:10 GMT)

lol they pulled out Shane Watson from the CLT20 to give him rest and how does this happened??

Posted by   on (November 4, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

Khawaja is certainly worth a mention too, I still think he got a raw deal being dumped for Marsh last year. He didn't have horrible form, he just never really made a position his own. He got pushed in and out of the team a bit, never had more than two tests in a row. there may have been something off-field playing a role too though. Anyway, Quiney got the nod it looks like, good for him.

Posted by   on (November 4, 2012, 9:09 GMT)

steve smith in for lyon to strenthen the batting. siddle, hilfenhaus and starc as quicks. quiney for watson. hussey, warner and clarke as part timers.

Posted by Paul-in-Finland on (November 4, 2012, 9:03 GMT)

Rob Quiney, in form Opener, just what the Doctor ordered.

Posted by onlinegamer55 on (November 4, 2012, 8:26 GMT)

@Meety Khawaja/Maxwell? Maxwell's certainly put his hand up in the Australia A game, he played beautifully, as did Doolan and Quiney. Khawaja also put his hand up with back to back fifties. However, I really think that Phillip Hughes deserves a position in the test team. I know Inverarity thinks he isn't ready and his shield form certainly could be improved but I think a step up to the next level would challenge him and it's only for one test match just to give him a taste to check out how he's doing. He performed well on a tough Gabba pitch with 95 and 80 this season so I think if he can chip in a good score, then he'll have done his job in the short term and in comes Watto for the second test match. Anyway, whoever does come in at Watto's expense will only get one game unless the selectors want to drop Ed Cowan which I doubt at this stage. Hughes is ready; he's a great kid so let's get him in for one game against the Saffas. At worst he'll fail, at best he'll win the match for Aus.

Posted by Meety on (November 4, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

@all - jonesy2 is taking the preverbial. He's a WA man & is parochial - but no sane person could justify MM after the year he has just had! @BG4cricket on (November 04 2012, 07:07 AM GMT) - I think if Watto can't bowl a 4-man pace attack is back on the table. Clarke will want Lyon under normal circumstances. @Troy Merritt - I'd go Khawaja over Doolan, just on the fact that Ussie has the better resume. Doolan's ton against the Saffas obviously hasn't gone unnoticed & he is definately in the contenders I would think. @Sinhaya on (November 04 2012, 05:58 AM GMT) - thanks for that. Re: SL, on the flip side- should Oz batting fail against the Saffas, we probably will have a lot of new faces lining up against your mob which could be exploited - particularly at the MCG on Boxing Day.

Posted by Artiebees on (November 4, 2012, 8:10 GMT)

Watson is the most underachieving player in the world with the bat for all his talent. Even so, to have him play injured won't do him any good. If i were the selectors I would be considering Burns, Khawaja and Hughes for the position.

Posted by Big-Dog on (November 4, 2012, 8:01 GMT)

@ Ross_Fleming. Since when has a couple of 50's been good enough to warrant test selection. Khawaja failed in his previous Aust selection & could'nt score a run last season. I would put Doolan & even Hughes in front of him but i reckon Maxwell should play with four quicks. Lyon's form has been rubbish & the backup spin could come from Clarke.

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 4, 2012, 7:54 GMT)

i agree that if he cant bowl, he cant bat because batting takes that quick feet movement and lunging and what not. even with his mind on his calf that is compromisng his concentration. whoever comes in will depend on whether they want a spinning allrounder and go all pace attack or just a like for like replacement for shane and i realise mitch marsh is out of form but i simply dont care about form when it comes to immense talents like him. maxwell, faulkner/marsh, khawaja should be the only discussed inclusions.

Posted by mattboosa on (November 4, 2012, 7:53 GMT)

I think they will go with Lyon therefore the choice is to go with an all rounder or a specialist batsman. McDonald would have to be the front runner but what about Hopes? Experienced, knows the Gabba well, can bowl all day but would have to bat at 7. For the specialist batsman, you couldn't go past Khawaja. But if it only for one test, providing Watson will be fit for the second and third tests, why not give the inform Doolan a chance. 161n.o. against the attack that he would actually face (mostly) can't be ignored.

Posted by   on (November 4, 2012, 7:32 GMT)

I agree with Meety, If he can't bowl, he shouldn't play.He is in the squad as an allrounder, but if we need to replace him, I'd err towards another batsman to drop in at number 3. Otherwise, we are going to have to reshuffle the batting order. I'd prefer to bring in Doolan at three, and then stick with a fairly settled team. It would basically be the same squad as last summer, but with a batsman in sparkling form instead of a passenger at three. Our bowlers should be able to take the wickets, our batsmen could use the extra boost. Otherwise, I guess McDonald comes in? He's our South African specialist. Bat him at six , clarke at three and hussey at five.

Posted by Mervo on (November 4, 2012, 7:09 GMT)

Too much crazy T20!!!!!!!!!

Posted by BG4cricket on (November 4, 2012, 7:07 GMT)

I am pretty confident they will play Lyon so the question is do we take an medium/fast all rounder or a specialist batsman. If it is a specialist batsman it is probably between Doolan, Bailey, Khawaja and Hughes and I would go with Doolan who has runs on the board this season. If they go with an all-rounder the choice is simply between Christian and McDonald. I think McDonald is a better bat and a steady bowler and he is probably the best replacement option. Marsh is not deserving of a spot on either temperament or form at the moment.

Posted by KingofRedLions on (November 4, 2012, 6:59 GMT)

Jonesy, Mitch Marsh is a walking wicket at the moment.

Posted by KhanMitch on (November 4, 2012, 6:57 GMT)

I think Khawaja will be the best replacment if required. He averages close to 80 on the Gabba, and he got 50s in both innings against a quality NSW attack. In a low scoring match he showed the technique needed to face the South African attack and I hope the selectors take note when picking a replacment for Watson. Plus he got runs against the Saffas last year in a top score of 80 in the 300 record run chase at Johanesburg.

Posted by popcorn on (November 4, 2012, 6:54 GMT)

Watson should play.As a batsman. Three Quicks - Sid Vicious,Hilfy, Starc or James Pattison, and Nathan Lyon are enough to skittle out the Saffers.

Posted by featurewriter on (November 4, 2012, 6:21 GMT)

I'd find a place for Doolan right now. The guy is in form. I'd go Cowan, Warner, Ponting, Clarke, Doolan, Hussey, Wade, Siddle Hilfenhaus, Pattinson, Starc (leave the spin to the part-timers of Clarke and Warner at the Gabba). If they were going to consider an all-rounder - and not Doolan - in place of Watson, I'd go Butterworth. The guy deserves to be in the Test team ahead of McDonald, Henriques or Mitch Marsh.

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 4, 2012, 5:58 GMT)

@Meety, you are spot on right! You make cricinfo a real treat mate! Maxwell should be groomed to be Australia's next best all rounder really but as a bowler he can only be a partnership breaker at the moment. I hope he improves as a bowler in the years to come. Yes calf issues can be ok if Watto is just acting as a batsman, but with his workload adding as a slip fielder and bowler, he is a risky choice. Hughes got too many chances and should not be considered. Batting is Australia's weak point unfortunately at the moment. My worry as a Lankan is that Aussie batsmen who struggle against South Africans in the tests will be eager to face our average bowling attack to get back into form.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (November 4, 2012, 5:45 GMT)

It should be a choice of Dan Christian or Mitchell Marsh. Both are in form all-rounders. Marsh has had discipline problems of late so I think that Christian would be favourite. I can't see Maxwell getting in.

Posted by bobagorof on (November 4, 2012, 5:32 GMT)

jonesy2: If Mitch Marsh had managed to not get kicked out of the Australia A side due to disciplinery reasons, and also have any sort of form with the bat behind him, then he might be in contention. But probably not. As for Watson, I'd be concerned with any potential damage from fielding for a few days at a time. Plus, if he's in the side it will be hard to resist giving him an over or several when he's warm, as South Africa's batting lineup will be tough to crack. Doolan, Quiney, Maxwell and Smith all did well in the tour match, so they would be first in line as replacements. Khawaja also scored a 50 in his last innings.

Posted by RJHB on (November 4, 2012, 5:23 GMT)

Jonesy, what on this bloody Earth has Mitch Marsh done to warrant test promotion, against the test champions no less??? He's promising but come on, you're nuts! Funny how the same clowns who wanted Dan Christian in the test team last year (were you one of them?) are all quiet on that front this year! Wanting Marsh is just more of the same though pal. Your opinion. IMO Watto needs to play, batsman only if necessary. You have to risk it to get the biscuit. He's one of our few half decent bats, if he gets injured making a hundred, it'd be worth it. Gonna miss his bowling though.

Posted by   on (November 4, 2012, 5:23 GMT)

what about alex doolan from tasmania if ur replacing watson , coming off 161*not out against the bowling we will be facing at the gabba seems pretty logical??

Posted by peeeeet on (November 4, 2012, 5:13 GMT)

You can't pick injured players for a Test match as they go for five days and if it flares up during those days the team is stuffed. I would pick McDonald or Henriques before I pick Marsh to replace him. But wouldn't be surprised if Inverarity's secret love-child Maxwell gets a run and they play 4 seamers. On another note, can someone help enlighten me as to why Bollinger isn't anywhere near the test team anymore? I liked that guy.

Posted by hris on (November 4, 2012, 4:55 GMT)

@jonesy what about mitch's shield performance makes you think he's good enough? i believe he would a good option in odi but please forget about tests atleast for a couple of years for him. And like VivGilchrist said, Cowan should not be in the team. hes a domestic player at best. Bring in either Khawaja or Burns and i also like meety's options of bringing maxwell as free scoring players at 7 similar to what prior has done recently. He's good against spin and can attack weary bowlers. and he's not much worse than lyon.

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 4, 2012, 4:31 GMT)

if they dont choose an allrounder then obviously usman comes in

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 4, 2012, 4:26 GMT)

i cant believe this. mitch marsh must come in to the side and bat at 6

Posted by VivGilchrist on (November 4, 2012, 4:25 GMT)

Play Watson as an opening bat, drop the out of form Cowan, play a batting all-rounder at 6 or 7. We're going to need 5 bowlers v this SAf batting lineup.

Posted by Meety on (November 4, 2012, 4:23 GMT)

Well IMO, if he can't bowl he can't play. He'll just end up injuring another part of his body. A calf injury is one of those types of injuries where you can often walk & run with no worries, but the second you need to do something explosive, like leap for a catch or dive to save a boundary, you re-injure it. The thing that worries me about Watto is, that he has a habit of taking ages to recover from an injury - so if he got a tear - than I doubt he will be fit to bat. The other thing to consider is, that the laws have been tightened around using a runner. So I would say that, not only would Watto be a passenger in the field, he will be a liability running between the wicket (an area that has already he has history). If Punter plays Watto definately can't IMO. Bring it Ussie right away. That said - no Watto could = Maxwell @ #6/7 & an all pace attack?

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 4, 2012, 4:19 GMT)

Best is to play Watson in all tests (except the Gabba one) of the summer only as a batsman. Probably give Khawaja a chance or even Maxwell can be a good replacement for Watson.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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