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Watson tipped to move down the order

Brydon Coverdale

December 4, 2012

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Shane Watson at Australia's training session, Adelaide, November 19, 2012
According to Mickey Arthur, Ponting's replacement will fill the No.3 slot, meaning that Shane Watson will drop to No.4 © Getty Images
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Shane Watson's gradual slide down the order is set to continue with Ricky Ponting's replacement expected to take over the No.3 position. Australia's coach Mickey Arthur said that while the full selection panel had not yet discussed who would take Ponting's place for the Hobart Test against Sri Lanka starting in ten days, he and the captain Michael Clarke had a potential replacement in mind who would be best suited to first drop.

That would mean Clarke could stay at No.5 and Michael Hussey at No.6, but Watson would need to drift down to No.4 to accommodate the new man. Watson is Australia's vice-captain and a key man in their plans to regain the Ashes next year, but his role in the side is evolving and having spent two and a half years as an opener, he moved to No.3 after his season-ending injury last summer allowed Ed Cowan and David Warner to become the Test openers.

"We haven't even discussed it yet [as a full selection panel], so I'm obviously putting a personal opinion. Without wanting to name names, it will probably be a guy who will come in and bat three and possibly a move for Watto at four," Arthur said of Ponting's replacement. "It just looks right and gives us a bit of stability.

"Michael and I, once we see who that guy is - and we've got in our minds who we think the guy is, but we still need to discuss that as a selection panel - and then sit down in Hobart next Monday when we arrive there and we'll make a decision on what our preferred batting order is going to be."

Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja are the leading candidates for a recall to the Test side, although it is not out of the question that Rob Quiney could be given another opportunity after failing in the first two Tests against South Africa. Whoever is included, they will need to provide Australia with a stability that the recent No.3s have not. The only century scored at first drop by an Australian since Ponting moved down the order was Shaun Marsh's debut ton in Sri Lanka last year.

Since the end of the 2009-10 summer, Australia have used five men at No.3 - Ponting, Watson, Marsh, Khawaja and Quiney - for a combined average of 26.38. Since Cowan and Warner came together as an opening pair on the Boxing Day last year, the Nos. 4 to 6 have provided Australia with nearly twice as many runs as the top three - a tally of 2861 from the middle order compared to 1483 from the top order.

"Cowan and Warner showed us glimpses this series," Arthur said. "I thought they were good in patches, but we need a lot more consistency, especially from our top four because we know at five and six we've got the best batsman in the world going into this Test match [Clarke] and Mr Cricket in Huss. We know that we're really well covered at five and six. We just need one, two, three and four to be giving us a really good platform and that's something we'll have a look at.

"When you're looking at Cowan, you're looking at Warner, you're looking at whoever comes in again and then Watto, there's no massive amount of Test caps there when you take Watto aside. You've got to give those guys time to grow and be a little bit more consistent. They've shown us they've got the goods, we've just got to be patient with them."

Australia must swiftly move on to their next challenge, a three-Test series against Sri Lanka, and then they face a tour of India ahead of back-to-back Ashes campaigns. Despite the top-order struggles and injuries to key fast bowlers, Arthur is happy with Australia's progress as they approach what will be one of the most important years of Test cricket in the side's recent history.

"If I look over the past year and I go back to the Test match we had in Hobart where we lost to New Zealand, that was a time for real reflection and a time for change and I think as a Test unit we can take a lot of pride from what we've done over the last year and I certainly think we were in a far better place now than we were this time last year," Arthur said. "We've just got to keep building. We've got a big series now against Sri Lanka and we've got to keep building through that.

"We've got a real tough series in India and that is followed by obviously what is the ultimate and that's the Ashes. We've got to make sure we've got a settled unit, very clear on what their roles are come those big Tests that lie ahead of us. But I'm still really happy we're going in the right direction."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by L4zybugg3r on (December 5, 2012, 23:46 GMT)

"All-rounders generally bat six? Eddie Barlow opened, Kallis bats four, Moody batted in a variety of positions between opener and eight. Same for Sobers. Dexter batted 3 as did D'Oliviera. Not to mention Miller, who batted at 4. All freaks, yes, but all-rounders are freaks."

The only modern examples you have are Kallis and Moody. Moody's record leaves a lot to be desired. I suspect Kallis will drop bowling duties soon as he seems to be getting injured more frequently these days and SA's bowling is looking strong.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (December 5, 2012, 11:19 GMT)

Agree with CricHorizon, Khawaja at 3 and Watson at either 4 or 6. My only issue with Watto too far back in the order is that he is a better player of pace then spin. Clarke is our best batsman and the best judge on where he should bat, don't you think he wasnts Australia to do the best it can so if he is staying at 5 then that's best. I hope Khawaja get recalled to the Australian team and I think that's the best decision if we want to fill the first drop spot as he is one of the best batsman of swing bowling in Australia as seen from his success on green tracks this year.

Posted by Marcio on (December 5, 2012, 11:00 GMT)

Those who are saying Watson is not a top order batsman don't know what they are talking about. He is excellent against the new ball and fastbowlers. His issue is loss of concentration after he is set. He averaged over 40 as an opener.

Posted by Meety on (December 5, 2012, 9:40 GMT)

@Moppa - btw, in regards to Harris, the BBL has temporarily given QLD selectors a reprieve as Ali Mac, Cutting, Harris, Feldman, Gannon & the spinners Hauritz & Boyce can't all play in the same game!

Posted by Meety on (December 5, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

@Moppa on (December 05 2012, 00:48 AM GMT) - I don't see a big problem with Hughes or Khawaja coming in @ #3 as they both experienced players. IF, we are talking Doolan or Burns (or even Neville), I would prefer they were shielded @ #6, with Hussey moving to #4. Regarding Cutting, I think he COULD be developed into a genuine allrounder, FC ave of 26 (this year its about the same as Khawaja), & his main strength is bowling. My only concern with him, is that he has had his fair share of injuries - but he isn't on his Pat Malone in that regard. I wonder how much of a chance Harris is for re-selection?

Posted by Fleming_Mitch on (December 5, 2012, 8:31 GMT)

@Macca_Mat and @Edward_L agree with you guys. The number three heading into Sri Lanka, India the back to back must be Khawaja.Our real weakness is guys who can handle swing bowling and none can handle it better then Khawaja. He is fantastic in bowler friendly conditions, and must be given a chance to really settle into the side b4 the ashes start. He will be a long term number 3 like amla, just needs a good go at it and has done well on difficlut pitches. Khawaja has played on at least 4 green tops this year including a game where he scored 1 and a half times the entire opposition in one inngs, whereas Adelaide is the best place to bat in the country and so we must.think outside of figures.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (December 5, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

Clarke will never bat 3 because he doesnt want to. Has been asked by the selectors and he has said NO. The most they can move him up is 4. Fact is he is scared of the new ball and prefers to bat once the ball is older and the quicks are a bit tired.

Posted by   on (December 5, 2012, 8:12 GMT)

All-rounders generally bat six? Eddie Barlow opened, Kallis bats four, Moody batted in a variety of positions between opener and eight. Same for Sobers. Dexter batted 3 as did D'Oliviera. Not to mention Miller, who batted at 4. All freaks, yes, but all-rounders are freaks.

Posted by ozwriter on (December 5, 2012, 7:34 GMT)

khawaja in at 3. clarke 4, hussey 5, watson 6 (also left right left right) and khawaja at 25 needs to be give decent a time (1-2 years) to consolidate and best prepare for the ashes as he is the long term prospect

Posted by   on (December 5, 2012, 6:50 GMT)

My side for Bellrieve:

1. Cowan 2. Watson 3. Clarke 4. Khawaja 5. M. Hussey 6. Warner 7. Wade 8. Siddle 9. Starc 10. Hilfenhaus 11. Lyon

Left/Right combo to open with Watson at his preferred position. Clarke SHOULD move to 3 given his form to plug the hole that's been apparent for years now. Khawaja deserves a call up and can then come in at four, less pressure but still high in the order. Hussey next in, he can partner Clarke/Khawaja and the tail. Warner down at 6 to attack the spinners/medium pace bowlers and the old ball. Siddle is a fighter and deserves his spot. Starc ahead of Johnson for his recent 6-for and half century. Hilfenhaus should do better in Tasmania at least and for goodness sake, just keep Lyon.

And forget 'King Pair' Quiney, Specialist-Fielder Bailey and Fat-Arse Cosgrove as picks for number 3, Khawaja or Hughes should be the only ones for consideration, they've earnt their spots. Quiney wasted his, Bailey for mine is a spud and Cosgrove is no chance.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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