Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Brisbane November 4, 2012

Injured Watson's Test hopes slim


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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • josh 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....

  • Mathew 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.

  • Harvey 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.

  • Prashan 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.

  • Andrew 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!

  • Dummy4 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

  • Prashan 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.

  • ahmed 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.

  • Andrew 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.

  • Dummy4 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??

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