South Africa in Australia 2008-09 December 1, 2008

Watson could return against South Africa


Shane Watson made a strong case for selection by taking 7 for 69 in a Sheffield Shield game © Getty Images
 

Shane Watson could return to the Test team for Australia's first match against South Africa as the side considers taking a four-man pace attack to the WACA. The Perth Test begins on December 17 and Australia's captain Ricky Ponting said there was no guarantee a spinner would be required at a venue where pace has dominated in first-class cricket this season.

Australia took four fast men, including Shaun Tait, into the Perth Test against India last summer and the plan backfired when they lost by 72 runs. But depending on the surface they have not ruled out a similar strategy this year and Watson's 7 for 69 in the first innings of Queensland's Sheffield Shield match this week make him the leading contender for a spot.

"[Perth] is always a fast bowler's paradise, particularly if we get to play on one of the relaid wickets that they have been playing all the Shield games on," Ponting said after Australia wrapped up an innings victory over New Zealand in Adelaide. "We got duped a bit there last year with the game over there.

"We heard so much about the WACA being back to its fast and bouncy best and they played us on one of the ones that had not been relaid and we went in with four fast bowlers, so that brought us undone. There would have to be some sort of consideration to playing those guys again, maybe even a line-up similar to Brisbane."

The final makeup of the team will depend on the pitch that is prepared and Ponting said if a change was made an allrounder like Watson would have the edge over a specialist fast bowler. Should a spinner be required Jason Krejza will be handed the opportunity if he is fit, after missing the Adelaide Test due to an ankle injury.

But Ponting said regardless of whether Watson played, the position of Andrew Symonds was not in doubt. Symonds has had a slow return to the Test team after not being considered for the India tour, although he was unfortunate to be given out caught behind in Australia's only innings in Adelaide when the ball appeared to miss the bat.

"Symo's not had a bad game," Ponting said. "He's got a decision that probably could have gone either way here and all of a sudden everyone's asking questions about him. I'm not really sure why that is.

"We all back Andrew Symonds' cricket ability. He's probably been our most consistent batsmen over the last couple of series anyway at No. 6. In a contest against the next best team in the world I'm pretty happy to have him in the side."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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