England v Australia, 4th Investec Ashes Test, Durham, 3rd day August 11, 2013

Watson injury concern for Australia

39

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 here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • pulkit10 on August 11, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    Might settle out by tomorrow but if not, I guess Australia a headache. Given his lean returns, it is kind of nice as they'll be able to try out someone else without worrying about losing out on a lot. However, that said, Watson at his best is an incredible player and losing someone like that mid test is unnerving.

    A like for like replacement would be James Faulkner who has done well in the shorter format recently and is relatively accurate with his bowling and handy with his batting. He should make a good #6. They could bring in Starc for the last one too but then you are entrusting an established bowler to bat. Doesn't really work.

  • handyandy on August 12, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    He should just stick with T20 and onedayers. Faulkner is a way better prospect for the test team.

  • on August 12, 2013, 9:29 GMT

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke..

  • RagTagTeam on August 12, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    Shame for Watto, right after a good knock on a tricky(ish) pitch as well. Oh well, He will still bat - the man doesn't need to run! Six or out, brother!

  • on August 12, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    Watson is always haunted with injuries. I hope he will be alright to bat in the current test match. If he fails then it would be concern for Australia.

  • himanshu.team on August 12, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    Watson must seriously assess his test match fitness. He can not hope that he is in the side as an all-rounder, but the skipper will always worry about his workload. If you are in the squad as a bowler, and your side has been bowling for the better part of the series (except just one test), then you have to share the bowling load. If Watson is unable to share this workload, he is not good as an all rounder at test level. His recent batting exploits, do not earn him a place in the team as a pure batsman either. So he must focus only on limited overs cricket and move away from tests. That is best for him, as well as for Australia.

  • on August 12, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    @Smudgeon, that is probably a little below Watsons station, he'll probably make his comeback through the champions league and Oz's odi tour of India!

    @jmc & nutcutlet, agree on the runner law, besides Arjuna has retired now, time to change it back!

    Hard to know what Aus will do now. Perhaps Watto and Bird out, Starc and Agar in? Maybe they oughta fly the big show over? Nice flat wicket at the Oval! This is why Watto can't open and play as an allrounder, his inevitable injury means there will never be a strong or regular opening combination with him at the top.

  • MrPud on August 12, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    Time for him to shuffle off into the sunset.

  • on August 12, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    What is it with all the Australian fast bowlers? They can barely get through a series uninjured. Pattinson and Watson are injured. Harris is fragile; it was a near miracle having him play for his 3rd consecutive test match for only the 2nd time in his career. The other great Australian hope, Cummins is perpetually injured. With all the facilities available for research and so many case studies available, they should be able to solve the mystery!

  • smudgeon on August 12, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    Okay, so maybe send him home now, let him settle back into the NSW squad, train when he's fit, hit Shield to find some form, and return to the Test team if - and only if - he has earned it through strong performance. In the meantime, you could either throw in Faulkner as a lower-order bat & handy left-armer (Agar if the next test is on a turner), or shore up the batting with Phil Hughes in the middle order. I'd prefer to have another bowler, to be honest, especially with Harris' injury record.

  • pulkit10 on August 11, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    Might settle out by tomorrow but if not, I guess Australia a headache. Given his lean returns, it is kind of nice as they'll be able to try out someone else without worrying about losing out on a lot. However, that said, Watson at his best is an incredible player and losing someone like that mid test is unnerving.

    A like for like replacement would be James Faulkner who has done well in the shorter format recently and is relatively accurate with his bowling and handy with his batting. He should make a good #6. They could bring in Starc for the last one too but then you are entrusting an established bowler to bat. Doesn't really work.

  • handyandy on August 12, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    He should just stick with T20 and onedayers. Faulkner is a way better prospect for the test team.

  • on August 12, 2013, 9:29 GMT

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke..

  • RagTagTeam on August 12, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    Shame for Watto, right after a good knock on a tricky(ish) pitch as well. Oh well, He will still bat - the man doesn't need to run! Six or out, brother!

  • on August 12, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    Watson is always haunted with injuries. I hope he will be alright to bat in the current test match. If he fails then it would be concern for Australia.

  • himanshu.team on August 12, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    Watson must seriously assess his test match fitness. He can not hope that he is in the side as an all-rounder, but the skipper will always worry about his workload. If you are in the squad as a bowler, and your side has been bowling for the better part of the series (except just one test), then you have to share the bowling load. If Watson is unable to share this workload, he is not good as an all rounder at test level. His recent batting exploits, do not earn him a place in the team as a pure batsman either. So he must focus only on limited overs cricket and move away from tests. That is best for him, as well as for Australia.

  • on August 12, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    @Smudgeon, that is probably a little below Watsons station, he'll probably make his comeback through the champions league and Oz's odi tour of India!

    @jmc & nutcutlet, agree on the runner law, besides Arjuna has retired now, time to change it back!

    Hard to know what Aus will do now. Perhaps Watto and Bird out, Starc and Agar in? Maybe they oughta fly the big show over? Nice flat wicket at the Oval! This is why Watto can't open and play as an allrounder, his inevitable injury means there will never be a strong or regular opening combination with him at the top.

  • MrPud on August 12, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    Time for him to shuffle off into the sunset.

  • on August 12, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    What is it with all the Australian fast bowlers? They can barely get through a series uninjured. Pattinson and Watson are injured. Harris is fragile; it was a near miracle having him play for his 3rd consecutive test match for only the 2nd time in his career. The other great Australian hope, Cummins is perpetually injured. With all the facilities available for research and so many case studies available, they should be able to solve the mystery!

  • smudgeon on August 12, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    Okay, so maybe send him home now, let him settle back into the NSW squad, train when he's fit, hit Shield to find some form, and return to the Test team if - and only if - he has earned it through strong performance. In the meantime, you could either throw in Faulkner as a lower-order bat & handy left-armer (Agar if the next test is on a turner), or shore up the batting with Phil Hughes in the middle order. I'd prefer to have another bowler, to be honest, especially with Harris' injury record.

  • on August 12, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    Why did Cricket Australia allow Watson to play in the "Injury creator IPL"? Why unnecessarily expose & aggravate the injury prone Watson in this "100 meters dash Cricket(IPL)" ? We suffered with our only plausible wicket taking bowler Zaheer Khan who limped and winced in pain and we were blown away since others simply could not take wickets .

  • on August 12, 2013, 3:35 GMT

    And that watson again he should retire from test cricket

  • jmcilhinney on August 12, 2013, 2:40 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster on (August 11, 2013, 19:13 GMT), I think that your own preference for limited-overs cricket may be colouring your opinion there, although I have to admit that my preference for Test cricket may also colour mine. That said, given Watson's age and country of origin, I think it rather more likely that he has a burning desire to succeed as a Test cricketer more than anything. Despite appearances, it may just be that he isn't quite good enough to do so consistently. There have obviously been some issues within the Australian team and some of them have centred on Watson and that may have soured his experience a little but there's really just no basis for your suggestion that he's uninterested. Logically, why would a player put themselves through the hard slog of Test cricket, which has obviously taken its toll on Watson's body, if they weren't interested when they can make many times more money playing T20? The answer is pride and desire.

  • on August 12, 2013, 1:06 GMT

    Honestly can this bloke complete a series of cricket of any description? What is the point in harping on about what great talent he has if he cannot stay fit on the field. Deadset this bloke would pull a hammy getting out of bed. Sad maybe but in a sense a prime example of the pathetic state of Australian cricket. Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane.

  • HatsforBats on August 12, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    Watson hit 180 in an odi without running, the injury could pay off by making him play his natural boundary-hitting game. Anyway, he can barely run between wickets when he's fit. If he can't play the next test it would be an ideal opportunity to debut Faulkner to see how he goes at the highest level. Though Hughes would feel aggrieved to miss out, that fifth bowler role has worked well for us. Resting Harris (before his next injury) is also an option.

  • hmmmmm... on August 12, 2013, 0:44 GMT

    It creates a conundrum - watson the batter hasn's been any use bar two innings, he seemed to come good the other day. As a bowler he is crucial to Australia's lineup and economical. I don't think Faulkener is either as good a bowler nor really a batsmen at test level. I would say Starc is a better all round option than faulkener in both departments, but given our weakness as a batting team you can not seriously consider having 5 bats and the keeper and then a very long tail. Anyone suggesting it is still living in a long gone fairy land where the lineup read hayden, langer, ponting....gilchrist and where it rarely mattered what happened after number 6!

  • jmcilhinney on August 12, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    @Nicholas Horne on (August 11, 2013, 20:32 GMT), I'm not so sure about that. I think that Watson, the batsman, is someone who always looks like he's better than his record shows. He did well early on and has been living off that for a while. His bowling certainly adds another invaluable dimension to the Australian attack and that has kept him his place but I don't think his record in recent years is that of a genuine Test batsman. Not that anyone else in the Australian team is doing that much better at the moment, mind you, so he may well have survived based on that.

  • landl47 on August 12, 2013, 0:06 GMT

    Before the start of the tour I suggested that the known fragility of Watson, Pattinson and Harris had to be a concern for Australia. Two down, one to go; I'm just rather surprised the one is Harris.

  • Barnesy4444 on August 12, 2013, 0:05 GMT

    If Watson is out for the final test then Hughes should bat at 3 with Khawaja at 6.

  • Barnesy4444 on August 12, 2013, 0:02 GMT

    I've lost count the number of injuries Watson has had the last few years. And they've all been from: Bowling.

    If they want Watson to be in the team then he has to be a batsmen who bowls a few handy overs, that's it no more. If they want him to be a first change bowler then he will continue getting injured. I thought they would have learnt that by now.

  • on August 11, 2013, 23:57 GMT

    Ed Cowan's very reliable. I rely on him to talk himself up and then bat himself down.

  • jmcilhinney on August 11, 2013, 23:54 GMT

    It was probably too much to hope for that both Watson and Harris would get through the series unscathed but this could be a huge blow for Australia. It's bad enough that Australia lose a bowler and that will put extra pressure on Harris, but Watson will have to bat without a runner and could potentially aggravate the injury and increase his recovery time. I understand why the ICC changed the rule regarding runners but when it threatens the health of players, I think that it's something they need to revisit.

  • Someguy on August 11, 2013, 22:58 GMT

    @Nicholas Horne - "Even if he's unable to bowl, he commands a place as a batter in this Australian team." Really? Based on what? His career record of 2 x 100's in 82 innings? Or maybe it's his recent form, where he's scored 1 x 50 and averages 24 for the year (last 13 innings)?

    Pattinson and Starc have both scored more runs and taken a lot more wickets in the last 12 months. Faulkner is a better bat than those 2, and a better bowler than Watson if you want to go for an allrounder.

    If you want someone purely for batting, Hughes deserves a go. He has been a consistent run scorer for years. He has a lot of potential for development, being significantly younger than Watson. He's already scored more test 100's than Watson, in half as many tests and is constantly being screwed over by being in and out of the team, and shifted around the batting order.

    Watson is a great short form player and should stick to that.

    his 2 wickets @ 78.5 this year?

  • on August 11, 2013, 22:37 GMT

    Watson? Again? What more must happen before Australia dump him for good? Even Eoin Morgan (yes, Morgan!!!) has as many Test hundreds as Watson does, and in a quarter of the number of innings, too. Also, I still can't believe that some people still believe that Phil Hughes is world-class. Mental rather than technical? No - his technique isn't good enough.

  • millsy24 on August 11, 2013, 22:30 GMT

    Pulkit10, Not sure that established bowlers can't bat. Starc can bat easily as well as Faulkner and totally outbowled him in the trial games. I am sure it was Starc that got 66* against SA and their brilliant bowling attack earlier this year. Then he got 99 in India when all the rest were collapsing and a 66* in the last test. He can bat, but I think we need another batsman to replace Watson if he can't play, unless the guys play really well in our 2nd innings. In this game, we have really only been playing with 9 batsmen anyhow, because Lyon and Bird can't bat, so if those two are playing in the final test, we definitely need someone who can bat. You wouldn't pick Faulkner as one of the 4 best bowlers either.

  • TEST_CRICKET_ONLY on August 11, 2013, 22:22 GMT

    Neither his bowling nor his batting justify Watson's inclusion in the side. He is another example of a player with "match winning potential" that we keep hearing about - remember Mitchell Johnson ? Unfortunately that potential never translates into results. His batting averages are crap and his bowling is ok for 5-6 overs only.

  • MinusZero on August 11, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    Time to retire from tests. Something his form should have decided long ago

  • Chris_P on August 11, 2013, 21:47 GMT

    @Malcolm Thomson. You do realize Haddin has scored 2 50's this series already, don't you? And his keeping is far ahead of Wade by a fair margin. And if you pick form batsman as replacements, Hughes is the leading run scorer on tour, surely a criteria for selection? @Nicholas Horne. Can't understand the reason? Let's see, for the past 3 years Watson has averaged less than 30 with the bat & more than 40 with the ball. While the English may be happy to say that is deserving of test selection I think you will find Australians feel he does NOT justify this spot in the team, his first class form is abysmal.

  • on August 11, 2013, 20:44 GMT

    The weak spots in the Aussie are at No 3 & keeper. Cowan should open with Warner , Rogers at No 3, then it's bye bye Haddin. Completely useless batsman. has made only 1 score. Our bowlers look good. I hope they try a new look team in the final test when we lose this one. Our batsmen are rubbish

  • on August 11, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    As an Englishman, I find this criticism of Watson quite extraordinary and unjustified. The guy's a darned good bat and he's bowled like a trojan in this series. Even if he's unable to bowl, he commands a place as a batter in this Australian team. (And if he CAN bowl, he's their best player after Clarke).

  • on August 11, 2013, 20:30 GMT

    As an ex teacher (not a PE teacher) my experience suggests that super fit athletic types are far more prone to injury than run of the mill blokes. At college it was almost unheard of that a PE student played in the cricket team despite the talent and desire to do so but they always had injuries, real or imagined. At school one excellent team that we had fell apart as the fitness bug caught on and one by one the lads were fit to play fewer than 50% of games. The desire for the body beautiful (no madam, not yours!) outweighs the desire to play sport, sometimes.

  • CricketingStargazer on August 11, 2013, 20:20 GMT

    I hope that this is nothing serious because I want to see England winning against a side at full strength, not one weakened by injury. Watson is by no means a great, but he has been a wretched nuisance to England time and again. Losing him, or having him batting on one leg would be a bad blow for Australia.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on August 11, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    James Faulkner surely has to be the one to come in if Watson's a non-starter next game; I'm surprised he hasn't been in earlier. If Watson can't bowl and hold up an end like he's been doing, get him out of tests now.

  • PACERONE on August 11, 2013, 19:35 GMT

    These fit looking guys are always the ones breaking down.This game is cricket not body building.I wonder how much weight Colin Cowdrey lifted in his career.

  • Nutcutlet on August 11, 2013, 19:26 GMT

    This is not proving a good series for the ICC. Their elite umpires have regularly proved themselves inept ( being polite), unable to come up with clear & consistent use of the technology; the umps (again!) haven't a clue about bad light & now the one situation where there is a regulation in place, banning the use of runners, unnecessarily handicaps a side in a close Test! Where did that bit of insanity come from? There is a world of difference from having an unfit pie-eater out of breath summoning a runner to do the yards for him & a genuine & movement-restricting injury sustained in the course of the match. Not for the first time, I would ask the ICC to get its act together & make some meaningful regulations, not bits of nonsense that in all probability waft their westerly way over the Arabian Sea. I have lost confidence in the ICC to deliver anything that is of genuine & lasting benefit to the game. All they seem to do is tinker, without striking at the heart of any genuine issue.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 11, 2013, 19:13 GMT

    This year could probably prove to be an end of Shane Watson - the test cricketer. He looks uninterested, perturbed, and irritated. Clearly, he ain't a happy man. Compare that to Shane Watson - the Rajasthan Royals (IPL) player and we have a world of difference. He is a totally different person playing in the IPL or for Australia in limited overs cricket. Test cricket simply doesn't interest him and it's evident in the way he conducts himself on-field. I am sure Australian supporters will hope that isn't the case and that he would be back scoring runs and taking wickets in whites.

  • willsrustynuts on August 11, 2013, 18:44 GMT

    He has never looked happy bowling in this series. Sad to see.

  • popcorn on August 11, 2013, 18:29 GMT

    This is terrible.If he is not fit for the final Test,the reliable Ed Cowan should take the opener slot,Warner should be dropped,Phil Hughes should bat at No.6 (between the devil and the deep blue sea he is the better option at Number 6),and the useless Jackson Bird should be replaced by Mitchell Starc who should never have been dropped for the fourth Test.

  • hhillbumper on August 11, 2013, 18:10 GMT

    I kind of thought it would be Ryan Harris who would fall over in a heap.Watson just looks very mechanical in his bowling and seesm very hesitant.As a man who has had his body go wrong more often that not maybe he should just keep to the shorter form of the games from now on.They suit his temperament and physique better

  • hhillbumper on August 11, 2013, 18:10 GMT

    I kind of thought it would be Ryan Harris who would fall over in a heap.Watson just looks very mechanical in his bowling and seesm very hesitant.As a man who has had his body go wrong more often that not maybe he should just keep to the shorter form of the games from now on.They suit his temperament and physique better

  • popcorn on August 11, 2013, 18:29 GMT

    This is terrible.If he is not fit for the final Test,the reliable Ed Cowan should take the opener slot,Warner should be dropped,Phil Hughes should bat at No.6 (between the devil and the deep blue sea he is the better option at Number 6),and the useless Jackson Bird should be replaced by Mitchell Starc who should never have been dropped for the fourth Test.

  • willsrustynuts on August 11, 2013, 18:44 GMT

    He has never looked happy bowling in this series. Sad to see.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 11, 2013, 19:13 GMT

    This year could probably prove to be an end of Shane Watson - the test cricketer. He looks uninterested, perturbed, and irritated. Clearly, he ain't a happy man. Compare that to Shane Watson - the Rajasthan Royals (IPL) player and we have a world of difference. He is a totally different person playing in the IPL or for Australia in limited overs cricket. Test cricket simply doesn't interest him and it's evident in the way he conducts himself on-field. I am sure Australian supporters will hope that isn't the case and that he would be back scoring runs and taking wickets in whites.

  • Nutcutlet on August 11, 2013, 19:26 GMT

    This is not proving a good series for the ICC. Their elite umpires have regularly proved themselves inept ( being polite), unable to come up with clear & consistent use of the technology; the umps (again!) haven't a clue about bad light & now the one situation where there is a regulation in place, banning the use of runners, unnecessarily handicaps a side in a close Test! Where did that bit of insanity come from? There is a world of difference from having an unfit pie-eater out of breath summoning a runner to do the yards for him & a genuine & movement-restricting injury sustained in the course of the match. Not for the first time, I would ask the ICC to get its act together & make some meaningful regulations, not bits of nonsense that in all probability waft their westerly way over the Arabian Sea. I have lost confidence in the ICC to deliver anything that is of genuine & lasting benefit to the game. All they seem to do is tinker, without striking at the heart of any genuine issue.

  • PACERONE on August 11, 2013, 19:35 GMT

    These fit looking guys are always the ones breaking down.This game is cricket not body building.I wonder how much weight Colin Cowdrey lifted in his career.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on August 11, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    James Faulkner surely has to be the one to come in if Watson's a non-starter next game; I'm surprised he hasn't been in earlier. If Watson can't bowl and hold up an end like he's been doing, get him out of tests now.

  • CricketingStargazer on August 11, 2013, 20:20 GMT

    I hope that this is nothing serious because I want to see England winning against a side at full strength, not one weakened by injury. Watson is by no means a great, but he has been a wretched nuisance to England time and again. Losing him, or having him batting on one leg would be a bad blow for Australia.

  • on August 11, 2013, 20:30 GMT

    As an ex teacher (not a PE teacher) my experience suggests that super fit athletic types are far more prone to injury than run of the mill blokes. At college it was almost unheard of that a PE student played in the cricket team despite the talent and desire to do so but they always had injuries, real or imagined. At school one excellent team that we had fell apart as the fitness bug caught on and one by one the lads were fit to play fewer than 50% of games. The desire for the body beautiful (no madam, not yours!) outweighs the desire to play sport, sometimes.

  • on August 11, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    As an Englishman, I find this criticism of Watson quite extraordinary and unjustified. The guy's a darned good bat and he's bowled like a trojan in this series. Even if he's unable to bowl, he commands a place as a batter in this Australian team. (And if he CAN bowl, he's their best player after Clarke).