South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg November 17, 2011

Watson and Harris compound Australia's injury woes


Australia's hopes at the Wanderers - and potentially for their home summer - took a major blow in the first session of the match when Shane Watson left the field with an injury to his right hamstring. The loss of Watson followed Australia's decision to send the fast bowler Ryan Harris home due to a hip problem, which will place him in doubt for the first Test against New Zealand.

Arguably Australia's most important player, Watson left the field after bowling the fifth ball of his fourth over, having already made a breakthrough when he had Jacques Rudolph caught behind. It was not immediately clear how serious the injury was, but Watson's history with hamstring complaints meant it was unlikely the Australians would risk him doing any further damage by bowling again in the match.

Watson returned to the field later in the day and stood at first slip - he didn't bowl again - and at the end of the day he was padded up ready to open the innings. However, the ICC's new law forbidding runners means that Watson's impact could be limited by how quickly he can make it to the other end of the pitch.

While Watson is key to Australia's setup due to his all-round abilities, the team is also without Harris, the best bowler in the side. Harris was ruled out of the Test, allowing the 18-year-old Pat Cummins to make his debut, and he was set to return to Australia immediately.

"Ryan Harris had some right hip pain after the first Test in Cape Town," Australia's physio, Alex Kountouris, said. "He was still experiencing pain bowling during the team training session on Wednesday and has therefore been ruled out of the second Test.

"He has had a number of investigations since arriving in Johannesburg that have at this stage excluded serious injury, however he will need to return to Australia for further assessment and to commence his recovery. His return to cricket will be guided by the improvement we see over the next week."

That timeframe does not bode well for his availability for the New Zealand series, which begins at the Gabba in a fortnight. Harris, 32, has been Australia's best bowler since he made his Test debut in New Zealand early last year, easily topping the frontline bowling averages during that period with 35 victims at 21.37.

However, Australia's concern is that Harris has played only half the Tests during that time. He was sent home from the Pakistan series in England last year with a knee injury that required surgery, he suffered a stress fracture in his left ankle during the Boxing Day Ashes Test last year and again needed an operation, and he missed the final Test in Sri Lanka in September due to a hamstring strain.

Three Tests is the most he has strung together in a row. The injuries to Harris and Watson leave Australia with some serious concerns ahead of the New Zealand series and the four-Test series against India that follows.

Harris was to be accompanied on the plane home from South Africa by the left-arm spinner Michael Beer, who the selectors felt would benefit from match-time back home. Trent Copeland and David Warner have remained with the squad but with an Australia A match against New Zealand set to begin next Thursday, it is not out of the question that one of them could be sent to take part in that match.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sialkoti on November 18, 2011, 7:09 GMT

    My suggestion to watson is just simple : eat 6 bananas with milk every day, 20 green olives too and he will not have this type of injury. Imran khan used to eat lots of bananas in his time to stay fit to be a world class all rounder. Watson should add olives and bananas to his diet , he will be fine. It's not a joke. it's fact.

  • Andrew on November 18, 2011, 6:49 GMT

    IMO - Oz can't all 3 of Watson, Marsh & Clarke in the side at the same time. All 3 have injury clouds over them (Pups being the least worrying or regular concern). As Pup is captain, its either Watto or Marsh - & as Watto is vice captain, me thinks Marsh should be precluded from selection until he puts up a solid case as to why he won't continue getting injured. == == == @Dashgar - if Oz want an allrounder in the side, there are quite a few to choose from at the moment. I think Maxwell looks to be a good #6 with a decent spin record (at least this season), we have bowling allrounders in Butterworth & Faulkner, I think Henriques has matured this season, Christian whilst being mainly being a short form option. I would not rate Mitch Marsh as an allrounder YET, he is getting heaps of wickets - but his FC batting sucks, so to me is a specialist bowler who might be able to bat. Some good options about!

  • Stephen on November 18, 2011, 5:52 GMT

    mrmonty, interesting point about all-rounders. I think Kallis' longevity has a lot to do with the fact that South Africa has always had a strong bowling attack and therefore Kallis hasn't had to lead an attack in the way that Flintoff often did. Shaun Pollock is another example of a successful all-rounder, but he got to share his workload with Kallis, along with Donald and Ntini. Watson is starting to find himself having to do the same as Flintoff - and also having to fill Hayden's shoes at opener, which may well prove to be physically unsustainable in the long term.

  • Dummy4 on November 18, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    It's a tall order to perform at Watson's level with both bat and ball. One could argue he is the best batsman and bowler of Australia. It takes a lot more fitness. That's why there are very few good fast bowling alrounders in the world. But his absense wasn't felt in the first inning of SA though.

  • Mike on November 18, 2011, 2:27 GMT

    Watsons issues are his size. Plain and simple. he has a great deal of muscle mass and it is limiting his injury prevention. The extra mass has helped his batting power but made him way more stiff and unmobile to be able to bowl for too long. He should look to lose a bit of muscle mass and regain the mobility in his posterior chain. Only then will he stop getting injuries in that area (ie back , hamstrings and hips).

    Its pretty simple mechanics really. Even overweight powerlifters have been mobility than watson. All that flashy muscle does stuff all for his longevity.

    And that doesnt mean starting a yoga or pilates routine. it means lowering his overall mass so the pressure is taken off larger joints.

  • John on November 18, 2011, 1:43 GMT

    It's a shame that players with talent, like Watson and Harris, have to sit out because of injuries. There's often an element of plain bad luck to injuries but when the same player goes down repeatedly it speaks to their resilience. Success comes partly from hard work but talented players also have natural ability and part of being a naturally good player is being resilient, so players like Watson and Harris are missing one of the key natural attributes of a truly great player. I would guess that Copeland didn't get a run because they wanted to blood Cummins and didn't want two inexperienced pace bowlers in the team. It's the same reason that they won't drop an experienced batsman and play Marsh and Khawaja together yet.

  • Peter on November 18, 2011, 1:37 GMT

    I think Watson's injury shows that you can't sustain being an opening batsman and a seam bowling allrounder for long in international cricket. He has done quite well opening the batting, but it has served its purpose and it is time for him to move to number 5 or 6. The success and experience he has gained from being at the top of the order will serve him well in the middle and maybe stop so many of the collapses we have seen in Australian cricket over the last few seasons. There are plenty of batsmen with good records who can open be given a shot at opening - Marsh, Warner, Hughes, Maddison, Khawaja just to name a few. I would even consider moving Hughes down the order too, as I have always been a fan of him and maybe he just needs to be sheltered for now to gain confidence that he can succeed at this level. He has 3 test hundreds, so there obviously is something there, just hope he can find it.

  • Michael on November 18, 2011, 0:15 GMT

    While you don't want to rely on injury-prone players, I don't believe Australia has much choice at the moment. So much faith has been placed in underperforming players that there is no other experienced players around. The best time to introduce a new player is when an established player loses form, but this hasn't happened for a while now. So we face the situation that if we don't want an entirely inexperienced attack we have to either rely on guys who don't get wickets, or who are effective but injury prone. A nice little hole we have dug ourselves.

  • Tim on November 17, 2011, 22:54 GMT

    The New Zealand series should be an opportunity for Invararity to try out some new faces in the Australian team, particularly in the opener role. Given the injuries or Watson and Marsh and the poor form of Hughes I would encourage opening with Warner and Cowan with Khawaja at 3 vs the Kiwi's. Wade should come straight in for Haddin. For allrounders to replace Watson we have Mitch Marsh, Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell and there are a number of promising fast bowlers as well. The NZ series needs to see a number of debutants, not just the same old guys trying to regain form from 2 years ago. That won't help us next Ashes.

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2011, 22:41 GMT

    I do not think past cricketers trained so hard and played numerous games of different type. Tests, one dayers and this 20-20 which is a joke. 20 -20 brings money fast and be given a different name say NOT CRICKET.

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