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August 11, 2013
Australia suffered a potentially significant blow to their chances of victory at Chester-le-Street when Shane Watson left the field injured on Sunday. Watson pulled up sore after the third ball of his seventh over of England's second innings and walked off with pain in his right hip/groin area. Cricket Australia said he would be assessed on Sunday evening "to see how it settles".
In the immediate term, the injury hampers Australia's hopes in this Test as, due to ICC regulations, Watson will not be able to have a runner when he bats in Australia's chase. Watson scored 68 in the first innings and apart from the centurion Chris Rogers was the batsman who appeared to best handle the swinging and seaming conditions.
In the longer term, it is a concern given Australia's apparent desire to turn Watson into more of a bowling allrounder. He began the series opening the batting but a lack of runs at the top of the order, combined with his impressive economy and control at the bowling crease, encouraged the Australians to move him down to No. 6 for this game.
Ryan Harris said: "It's obviously not a good sign when anyone gets injured but I don't know it's as bad as first thought. When I left the rooms they were talking about him batting but they'll assess it tonight and see how he pulls up in the morning. You never want anyone limping off, especially someone like Shane Watson who's a pretty big player in your team."
Watson has bowled 80.3 overs in this Ashes campaign, easily the second most he has sent down in a Test series, after the 115.4 he delivered in India in 2008. Watson's bowling has been a constant source of injury concerns throughout his career, to the point that he embarked on the tour of India earlier this year as a batsman only, in an attempt to avoid further problems. But his miserable batting form - he has not scored a Test hundred since 2010 - meant that Watson needed to be bowling for Australia to gain enough value from his inclusion in the side and he has played an important bowling role in England.
Watson's most recent bowling injury occurred during the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka at the MCG last year, when he hurt his left calf, the same muscle that caused him problems earlier in the season and ruled him out of the first two Tests against South Africa. He had also missed the whole of the previous Australian Test summer due to calf and hamstring injuries.
His injury in Melbourne came after he sent down 47.4 overs in the previous match at Hobart, the most he had ever delivered in a Test, and his heavy workload and subsequent injury on this Ashes tour will again force Australia to consider how to use him in future.
If Watson is ruled out of the next Test at The Oval, Australia will also need to consider whether to replace him with a bowler and move Brad Haddin up to No. 6, or with a batsman. James Faulkner, Ashton Agar and Mitchell Starc are the extra bowlers in Australia's squad who could come into contention and each offers an all-round option as well.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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