South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 3rd day November 19, 2011

Watson in doubt for first Test against New Zealand

Shane Watson has conceded that he is in doubt for the first Test against New Zealand and even if he does play, he will be unable to bowl. Watson left the field on the first day at the Wanderers after he strained his right hamstring while bowling and while he was able to bat and run between the wickets well enough to score 88 in Australia's first innings, the injury remains a concern.

That leaves Australia with three of their best players in danger of missing the Gabba Test against New Zealand, which begins in 11 days. The new No. 3, Shaun Marsh, flew home from South Africa after injuring his back during the loss in Cape Town, while the in-form fast bowler Ryan Harris has also returned to Australia to deal with a hip problem.

But neither of those men would be as big a loss as Watson, who is the team's vice-captain, opening batsman and an important wicket-taking change bowler. Watson said it was important over the next two days that he balanced pushing for a victory to help Australia level the series with ensuring he does no further damage to the hamstring.

"With running between wickets it's [a matter of] not pushing it too hard. I don't want to make it worse and rule myself out for longer at the start of the summer," Watson said. "I am trying to find a balance between getting through this Test match and contributing as much as I can, even if it is only with the bat, and not doing too much damage so I give myself a chance of playing in Brisbane.

"Most probably bowling will be out in Brisbane but we will just have to wait and see. I am going to get a scan done after this Test to see the extent [of the injury] but hopefully it won't be a significant one. Hopefully it will only put me out for a little while. When I've strained hamstrings in the past it's taken a little bit of time once it's healed for me to get back to a full bowling workload, so hopefully it won't be too long."

Watson was forced to bat without a runner in the first innings - the ICC abolished runners earlier this year - and depending on the target Australia need to chase he could have a heavy responsibility over the final two days at the Wanderers. He said it was important that after this match was over Australia's medical staff made the right call on whether he should play at the Gabba.

"That is going to be a decision that we talk to Alex [Kountouris], our physio, about. Hopefully the worst-case scenario is that I can play as a batsman without any chance of it flaring up and delaying my bowling comeback. I'm very confident we will get the decision right but we need to get it right."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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