Lehmann, Watson included as Australians revitalise squad
One of Australian domestic cricket's most experienced players and one of its most promising are the new faces in an exciting 15-man squad named today to represent Australia on its Test tour of South Africa next month.
Prolific South Australian runscorer Darren Lehmann and strapping Tasmanian all-rounder Shane Watson have each won call-ups on the back of exceptional performances at state level this season.
Lehmann, 31, last played Test cricket three years ago but has remained a phenomenal accumulator of runs in the domestic arena. The left hander is one of Australia's most gifted batsmen and will be hoping to build on a record that has seen him play just five Tests to this point of his career. Lehmann leads the list of domestic first-class run scorers in Australia this season, having spiced 823 runs with four centuries at an average of 58.28.
His selection represents a setback for Western Australia's Simon Katich. Katich was the reserve batsman on Australia's recent tour of England but has been excluded from this squad in the midst of a season which has brought him 523 first-class runs at an average of 43.58, one of his least successful returns in an excellent career at domestic level.
Watson, 20, is meanwhile a prodigiously talented all-rounder. Originally from Queensland, he was the subject of a recruiting coup 12 months ago that saw him take up an offer to begin his interstate career with Tasmania. A highly skilled top order batsman and menacing fast bowler, he has rarely failed to impress in the combination of 12 first-class and 14 limited-overs matches that have followed. He also appeared in an Australia 'A' match against New Zealand earlier this month and left a favourable mark with his powerful hitting and aggressive pace bowling.
Also featuring in today's announcement is the inclusion of two leg spinners in an Australian tour squad for the first time in three years. It has not been since the visit to the Caribbean in 1998-99 that Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill - each key bowlers in the win over South Africa that completed Australia's recent home 3-0 whitewash of the Proteas - have been paired together in a touring party.
That gives the Australians as many as six specialist bowlers in the squad as well as the all-round talents of Watson. In a well-balanced line-up, seven specialist batsmen have also been included.
The four-man selection panel has, however, resisted the urge to take a second gloveman on the trip, leaving the wicketkeeping duties exclusively to Adam Gilchrist. There had been speculation that the panel closely scrutinised the claims of Queensland's Wade Seccombe, who was an Ashes tourist last year, and young Tasmanian Sean Clingeleffer after outstanding form for his state team this summer.
The Australian squad will depart on 13 February and the opening match in the three-Test series will be played at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg nine days later.
The full squad is: Steve Waugh (c), Adam Gilchrist (v/c), Andy Bichel, Jason Gillespie, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Brett Lee, Darren Lehmann, Stuart MacGill, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne, Shane Watson, Mark Waugh.