Australia in South Africa 2013-14

Watson out of first Test

Daniel Brettig

February 8, 2014

Comments: 76 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson arrive for the South Africa tour, Johannesburg, January 29, 2014
Shane Watson (right) suffered the calf injury soon after arriving in South Africa © AFP
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A crestfallen Shane Watson is out of the first Test against South Africa and under a cloud for the whole series after a calf strain proved more stubborn than first thought.

The injury is a major blow to Australia's hopes of unseating South Africa at home, particularly after James Faulkner was also ruled out due to knee surgery. It leaves the tourists weighing up the inclusion of Moises Henriques as an allrounder or the promotion of Phillip Hughes and a resulting reliance upon a four-man bowling attack.

Having complained of calf soreness during an early training session on tour, Watson had tried to build up his workload over the past two days as Australian trained in Johannesburg, but recurring pain has seen him ruled out of the match at Centurion Park by the team physio Alex Kountouris. He will now have a few days of light duties before attempting to recover in time for the second Test at Port Elizabeth.

"We thought 'He's had this before, let's just nurse it'," Kountouris said of the injury. "He batted yesterday and was fine, and we've been building up his intensity. Today we were trying to get him up to match level . . . and he struggled with that today. He could feel it. We just don't think he he's going to be right for the first Test. We need a few more days now to let him recover and start up again.

"Hopefully he gets to the point where he's able to train unrestricted by two or three days' out from the second Test, which is what we were planning to do here, and then being able to reproduce that two or three times and be confident he can get through a game."

Watson's plight is such that he is presently unfit to bat as well as bowl, as even the simple task of running has proven too difficult. He is thus facing a brief time frame to be fit as a batsman in the series, while his chances of bowling appear slim due to the greater amount of time required to build up strength and confidence in the calf - a muscle that can be notoriously slow to improve.

"There is usually a bit of a lag, because running is generally a bit easier than bowling," Kountouris said. "Our first priority is to try and get him back as a batter, give the selectors that option.

"He was very disappointed obviously, as we all are. We were very happy we got everyone through the past Ashes, and Watto himself hasn't missed a game through injury for a very long time. It's disappointing, but it's part of the game."

Though he has one of the more pockmarked injury records of all cricketers, Watson has in recent times improved in his ability to shrug off the muscle strains that had so disrupted his earlier career. In England last year he twice kept playing despite the emergence of niggles, and he likewise battled past hamstring and groin troubles to contribute to the victory at home.

Watson's convalescence is another setback for the tourists following the major disruption caused by heavy rain in Potchefstroom that forced the abandonment of the only planned warm-up fixture. While the confidence imbued by an Ashes sweep of England at home is still evident, teammates were taken aback by the news that Watson would not be available for the start of the South Africa series.

Australia's resilience is being tested considerably by events at the back-end of a long summer, from injuries to Faulkner, Shaun Marsh and Watson to the aforementioned showers in South Africa. Their response will say much about how the coach Darren Lehmann has developed the team, for whom he has set the goal of winning consistently away from home.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 11, 2014, 5:02 GMT)

Scoffy; 29 years of age and one first class century, with an average of 31. Can't see how you can pick that over Watson. Good player but never going to be picked as a batsman on that record.

Posted by OneEyedAussie on (February 11, 2014, 1:48 GMT)

Having a fourth seam option is an integral part of Australia's strategy. Harris' and Johnsons' spells need to be kept short (preferably no more than 5-6 overs). This means that Henriques will probably be selected in the team if Watson is not to bowl - which seems a certainty at this stage. It also means that Doolan or Hughes will be picked in Watson is not fit to bat. Of course, Hughes has the best red ball form out of the two, but I can't help but think it might be worth having a look at Doolan.

Posted by Scoffy on (February 10, 2014, 14:44 GMT)

Just throwign it out there but I think Tim Paine playing as a batsman might make a good number 3.

Posted by ScottStevo on (February 10, 2014, 11:30 GMT)

@BradmanBestEver, Maybe not, but he's a much better option than any of the 3 you've mentioned. Doolan doesn't even match Watson's test #3 average at shield level - good call! Silk and Maddinson aren't even ready for test cricket let alone at 3. Maddinson doesn't even look a number 3 either. He's another Warner in the making and we need someone more solid at 3 than he'll be. Fact is, we don't have anyone better to take that #3 at the moment. M Marsh, gimme a break. Also, Watson doesn't bat at 6, look at his stats from 6-11, he averages around 15. For whatever reason it may be, he obviously doesn't do well after sitting in the sheds waiting to bat...

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 10, 2014, 11:21 GMT)

I also agree with ScottStevo and Viv Gilchrist Watto is our best allrounder. His test batting average ain't great but its higher than what Faulkner and Henriques have done at the lower level. People talk about Faulkner but he still hasn't scored a first class hundred. Watto will be missed for balance. I would prefer to go in with 6 batsman as I fill our pace attack are fit enough to handle the slight increase in work load and Henriques batting which is his strong suit is questionable.

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (February 10, 2014, 9:03 GMT)

A blessing in disguise - Watto is not the best option at No.3. We should try Doolan or Silk or Maddinson at No. 3. Put Watto at no. 6 until he can no longer bowl and then replace him with M. Marsh.

Relegate S. Marsh to a permanent one day/T20 player

Posted by VivGilchrist on (February 10, 2014, 8:04 GMT)

@CptMeanster, big comments. How's India travelling these days?

Posted by VivGilchrist on (February 10, 2014, 7:12 GMT)

I agree with ScottStevo, this totally chucks out Australia's team balance. For those that don't see that and how it may effect the continuity of our bowling attack either has a distorted bias against Watson or doesn't understand Test cricket.

Posted by ScottStevo on (February 10, 2014, 0:17 GMT)

(continued)...yet, in the first innings, the 2nd wicket partnership was the 2nd highest in the 1st innings other than the 6th, which from recollection was around 50. That would suggest that, even if Watson wasn't scoring runs, at the very least he was forging partnerships that the openers, nor the other top 5 were managing. I find it amusing that haters want desperately to hate Watson, yet seem to forget what he brings, especially in his underrated bowling. Another myth - Faulkner > Watson. Ha! For starters, JF is a bowler who can bat a bit (a bit in ODI). Somehow Aus fans seem to think JF will bat well in tests yet Bailey failed. Bailey had the best calendar year of just about any ODI batsman and failed, Faulker smashed a few runs in India (2 digs) and one against Eng. Magnificent innings, but Bailey, who did so, so, so, so, so much better in '13 failed - why would a bowler do better? I'll tell you now, he WON'T. Watto is a huge loss in this series as he leaves our side unbalanced...

Posted by ScottStevo on (February 10, 2014, 0:10 GMT)

@GreatestGame, whilst I generally never agree with you - and for good reason; normally you're completely off the mark - however, on this rare occasion, you're spot on. Watson isn't fit to strap the bootlaces of Kallis and comparisons between the 2 are irrelevant.

Nonetheless, Watson is CRUCIAL to the Aus side as he adds a balance that cannot be obtained through any other player we currently have. Here's a few myths about Watson dispelled (hopefully some will actually take these stats on board). Firstly, forget his career average. WE need only look at Watson from '09 when we gave him a slot as batsman. SInce then, as opener, Watson averages around 42 - the same as the much loved Warner. Yet, apparently Watson ISN'T a top order bat. Watson averages at # 3 around 41 also, which would suggest, he's not doing too bad there either. Watson doesn't score runs under pressure - well, he scored that 83* in the ashes to win us a test, but that was 2nd innings, so didn't count....

Posted by MinusZero on (February 10, 2014, 0:05 GMT)

I think there has always been knee-jerk selections in the Australian team. They give players too few chances to prove themselves, especially the spinners. While i didnt agree with Bailey's selection based on ODI and T20 form, is five tests enough of a chance. In any case, the selection of Hughes and Doolan and now for some strange reason Marsh, showed that Watson was never going to bat at 3. He was going down the order where he should have been long ago. Watson should retire from tests to increase his longevity in the short games where he is better anyway. Faulkner should replace Watson now when fit.

Posted by jonesy2 on (February 9, 2014, 16:04 GMT)

Jeeves-- not sure you are all there in the cranium. hodge has retired for a start, marsh got injured then has recovered in time after winning the BBL

Posted by jonesy2 on (February 9, 2014, 16:02 GMT)

if I was choosing the team I would have hughes batting 3, marsh batting 6 and not bother with a fast bowling allrounder because if need be lyon can bowl some extra overs and there is smith and then warner and we know how poor the proteas are against leg spin.

Posted by jonesy2 on (February 9, 2014, 16:00 GMT)

looks like both teams have the same decisions to make now which is a bit of a quirk

Posted by adeng on (February 9, 2014, 15:13 GMT)

At the risk of sounding like the Australians: Watson had scared eyes...

Posted by Beertjie on (February 9, 2014, 15:07 GMT)

I normally don't expect selectors to take unreasonable risks, but this is one such occasion. Henriques could be a state swop for Watson because if Rhino breaks down, he would be badly needed. On the other hand if they go in with Lyon, and Rhino is not as effective there may be trouble if there are only 3 bowlers. I say take the plunge here because the likely rain is more likely to provide recovery for 4 bowlers. Lyon should always play except now that Watto is out.

Posted by Clavers on (February 9, 2014, 9:05 GMT)

Dr.Qwert has a point. If there is to be a replacement for Watson he should be an in-form batting allrounder. But for South African conditions he should be one who bowls seam-up. North's bowling would be a little redundant in a side that already has Lyon, Steve Smith and a couple of other part-time spinners.

Looking at recent scores, Henriques seems to be in pretty good form. His last 9 matches have been T20s, and apart from one duck has has contributed with the bat in each match. In his most recent first-class match (8 Dec) he scored 127 and 19.

James Hopes is another option; 3 half-centuries averaging 54.3 and 8 wickets in his last 3 1st-class games.

I would play Hughes at No.3 and Henriques at 6 or 7 behind Haddin, with the rest of the team as per the Ashes series. On form, you could also justify playing North instead of Hughes, perhaps not at 3.

Marsh's selection is lunacy. Doolan's is not quite as silly but he should be reserve batsman and not play ahead of Hughe

Posted by Samdanh on (February 9, 2014, 6:18 GMT)

Why can't Aus play Coulter Nile or Cutting who can also bat reasonably well besides their fast bowling skills? Marsh's selection raises questions if selection is based on performances in 2013-14 Shield games. Who is the back up spinner in squad? Is there anyone at all? Please keep Argus report open. Looks like the 5-0 win of England is turning Aus Cricket Management blind again.

Posted by   on (February 9, 2014, 5:47 GMT)

Haha, could not even win, Red and White Army, it's clear you didn't watch those hard fought first two tests, where Australia were the better side but failed to put the South Africans away due to mid match injuries to bowlers and some brilliantly stubborn batting by Du Plesis. Michael Clarke made two double centuries in that series. How many double centuries did English batsmen score against South Africa at home last time. The series could have just have easily been 2-1 Australia's way (South Africa had a blinder in Perth), but hey that's cricket.

Posted by DylanBrah on (February 9, 2014, 5:03 GMT)

@RednWhiteArmy - even more fascinating is how most England fans were predicting to win 5-0 in Australia. They've been proven wrong, but instead of keeping quiet and eating crow, they continue hang around in Australian threads and talk smack with nothing meaningful to contribute. I'm sure some of your 'Red n White Army' are on suicide watch right now... maybe you should worry about them.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (February 9, 2014, 4:43 GMT)

It's fascinating how most aussie fans think they are just gonna rock up & beat South Africa. You could not even win a single test against them when you had home ground advantage last time round.

Posted by Jeeves_ on (February 9, 2014, 3:37 GMT)

Interesting background; I don't think Australia were sensible in sending home Shaun Marsh, and then re-selecting him. That was really poor. If he was the first choice, he should not have been unselected. Then, I am not sure about the replacement of Shane Watson. Faulkner was in line, but that's no longer an option. I would probably have gone to Brad Hodge.

Posted by badyon on (February 9, 2014, 2:25 GMT)

Australia must now be favourites?

Posted by blink182alex on (February 9, 2014, 2:16 GMT)

I think the decision to completely drop Bailey is looking a little exposed now. Sure he averaged 25 in the Ashes but the team won 5-0 and there was no need to make any changes. Watson did well batting at 3 and bowling economically and they weren't happy with that and want Doolan at 3 who is a worse batsmen than Watson.

Now with Watson set to bat 6, he gets injured and now we need another replacement, rather than there being 1 enforced chance to the Ashes winning side, there will be 2. And 2 changes that are weakening the side.

If they play Henriques at 6 then we will lose.

Posted by AidanFX on (February 9, 2014, 1:26 GMT)

For some time now I have had big question marks over Invarity - and I still do. Can someone explain the logic. Marsh has a woeful average in the longer format in shield this year. He made some runs for OZ granted in 50 overs and was quite good in BBL. But Bailey played very well in international and BBL 20/20 - so why not just re-select him again since he was in the winning oz ashes team. What does Marsh over that Bailey doesn't. Why the need for cover when you have two class batsmen, Hughes and Doolan (one to get a definite spot, probably the latter) and then you also have Henriques as the allrounder. I don't know why Invarity obsesses so much over Marsh - if anything his brother is a more ideal replacement for Watson but I guess oz are typically over cautious over their young bowlers. Meanwhile, the signs are Hughes will miss out again though he topped scored in the intra match.

A much as I know Watson is an important player he days are numbered, a liability.

Posted by AidanFX on (February 9, 2014, 1:18 GMT)

Can someone tell me what Hughes has to do to get a game? He scores a double in shield, he scored hundreds in 50 over and shield. He was dropped two games after an 80* in Eng. He is the best player not currently in the team.

Posted by Dr.Qwert on (February 9, 2014, 0:53 GMT)

Get Marcus North across there. He's been in great form with the bat and bowls very handy spin. They have started going down the right track in selecting the best players regardless of age, like Rogers and Harris. This is particularly important for big series like the Ashes and this series. North is the best option in the current position.

Posted by   on (February 9, 2014, 0:48 GMT)

Great news. Play Hughes and Doolan and we're all set. You only play an all arounder if they're good. Watson and Henriques are not.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (February 9, 2014, 0:33 GMT)

Eskimo, what a great bunch of cherry-picking spin! Do you really believe what you wrote? Just for starter if you pair them off in bowling averages alone Australia comes off best in 3 of 4 bowlers. I won't even bother with the nonsense about Aus having batsmen-friendly pitches. The Poms could barely get to 200 half the time in the recent Ashes series.

And you miss the obvious advantage Aus have. Captaincy/strategy - Aus are miles ahead of SA. Clarke, mcDermott & co are the best in the business. We have seen repeatedly what a defensive captain Smith is. At the first sign of problems he shuts up shop & plays for a draw - the 1st test vs India was almost beyond belief. 3 wickets in hand with 20 to get and he opts for the draw! He got away with it in Aus, where his captaincy was just awful & should rightly have cost SA the series if not for the fortuitous advent of Australia being reduced to 3 bowlers early in the 2nd test.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (February 9, 2014, 0:26 GMT)

I think we should pick Hughes for the first test as the wicket is expected to provide a lot of assistance for the quicks.

Posted by disco_bob on (February 9, 2014, 0:06 GMT)

If ever there was a time for Hughes to make his mark this is it. He needs to be able to keep Watto out of the number 3 position if he returns for the 2nd test. I had a good feeling about MJ before the Ashes and I similarly think this is series is going to be the making of Hughes as a permanent fixture in the Test team.

Posted by pat_one_back on (February 8, 2014, 22:53 GMT)

I appreciate your thinking @Eskimo yet competent as most Aust bowlers are with bat in hand that is a long tail and over rates would be another concern. It is a really tough call on our best side from here, highlights why Watto can't stay at 3, there's just too much disruption to the batting line up when he's injured which is too often. Last time Aust took on SA in Brisbane with just the 4 and did well (Patto in particular) he broke down the following test though I might add, I doubt Lehmann will want to risk over bowling his frontline quicks early with the short turnarounds this series. If Henriques doesn't slot in at 6/7, wtf is he there is the next question, his ability to contain with the ball and be good for a 30 odd makes him like for like with Watto doesn't it?

Posted by Moppa on (February 8, 2014, 22:11 GMT)

@Pat_one_back, agreed, the idea that we need to replace Watson with an all-rounder is wrong, we haven't been using his bowling much lately anyway. For example, he only bowled 47.4 overs in the last Ashes series, less than 10 per match. Of course, England's batting folded in a way that you could never expect South Africa's too, but on the flip side there should be a bit more juice in the pitches leading to shorter innings. Don't pick Henriques, his batting is nowhere near the standard required and his bowling will be 'handy' at best. Just go with our six best batsmen, which, for better or worse, looks something like Rogers, Warner, Hughes, Clarke, Smith, Doolan. Though, on a green one, I'd be tempted to put Clarke back where he's been most effective: Rogers, Warner, Hughes, Doolan, Clarke, Smith.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 8, 2014, 22:10 GMT)

Greatest Game; Another way to look at it is Kallis is retired Watson isn't. Watson will have the biggest impact in the future starting from this series. However, I won't argue the talents of the two with you as you have adequately described the difference between the two talents.

Posted by SlabbertCricket on (February 8, 2014, 22:09 GMT)

Still not convinced with the Aussie batting team. Clarke all class. But the South African attack ten times better than the English attack away from home. Haddin is sure to fail somewhere. Batting will decide this series. And with Philander performing with the bat followed by Petersons attacking batting. I see South Africa winning the series.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 8, 2014, 22:07 GMT)

With Australia calling up Marsh to the squad, it looks very likely Hughes and Doolan will play and they need a spare batsman incase of any unfortunate injuries. Otherwise, what is the point of calling Marsh.The only question now is the batting order and my tip is Hughes will slot in at 3, Doolan at 4 then Clarke and Smith.

Posted by victortrumpet on (February 8, 2014, 21:46 GMT)

It's called serendipity chaps, get Henriques in there - he's as good a bowler as Watto - but a better more consistent batsmen. The real quandary is who to pick out of Doolan and Hughes. Yes.

Posted by Sir_Francis on (February 8, 2014, 21:00 GMT)

They may as well bring Marsh over now. Had to laugh at the comment about Marsh living up to his forbears standards. I assume that was a joke because Geoff Marsh averaged 33 which is known as the "Marshinot" Line - ie anything below that is not Test standard.

Posted by Eskimo on (February 8, 2014, 20:43 GMT)

@TommytuckerSaffa I completely see your point regarding the 5 specials batsmen. However, I included Haddin as the 6th specialist batsman, because (this is gonna sound silly) Doolan, Henriques and Marsh are even worse batsmen than Haddin (according to stats) and Haddin is in good nick. Pattinson seems the only logical replacement for Watson as he is a specialist bowler and capable with the bat. I feel 4 bowlers will not be enough to bowl SA out cheaply and if one bowler breaks down, it's all over. SA have the same issue with the retirement of Kallis and that's why they opted for a specialist bowler or all-rounder, thus De Kock wasn't selected in the squad. This is all my personal opinion though.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (February 8, 2014, 20:14 GMT)

@ Eskimo Im not an aussie but I would never go into this test match with only 5 specialist batsmen. Your team lists only 5 - that's a bit light. Go with 6 bats and 4 bowlers. With Watson gone, it takes away the luxury of having a bowler of quality bowling 15 overs a day.

Posted by   on (February 8, 2014, 20:08 GMT)

can't get any better for Aus..

Posted by   on (February 8, 2014, 20:07 GMT)

Rogers Hughes Doolan Warner Clarke Smith Haddin Johnson Siddle Harris Lyon

Posted by Eskimo on (February 8, 2014, 19:13 GMT)

The bowling attacks of both sides are equally matched even though the averages will be in SA's favour. Taking into account SA mostly have bowler friendly pitches and AUS mostly have batting friendly pitches. SA have 3 players in the 50 average region (excluding Du Plessis) where AUS have one. That's a notable difference taking the conditions into account.

SA haven't lost a home series in 5 years (since AUS 2009) and an away series in 8 years (since SL 2006). AUS's away record has been "patchy" at best, everything is going against AUS except for one statistic. SA haven't beaten AUS in SA since 1969-1970. If cricket was played on paper I wouldn't even bothered switching on the TV for this series, but it isn't and that's why we love the game.

Prediction: SA 2 - AUS 1

The SA team is pretty settled. My AUS team would be:

1) Rogers 2) Warner 3) Hughes 4) Clarke 5) Smith 6) Haddin 7) Johnson 8) Harris 9) Pattinson 10) Siddle 11) Lyon.

What changes would you make, if any?

Posted by Ozzz.z on (February 8, 2014, 19:09 GMT)

Yay Watto out, Oz might have a chance now lol

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (February 8, 2014, 17:33 GMT)

I think Australia are already provided with some ready made excuses for losing the series. Watto's injury is only a crumb from the pie. Hopefully, Shaun Marsh can live up to his limited overs reputation. It would be a shame if a player with the last name of Marsh doesn't live up to his forbearer's standards.

Posted by Gareth_Bain on (February 8, 2014, 17:25 GMT)

This is a big loss for South Africa. Watson with his lead foot would have been a great help for our pace bowlers...

Posted by Nickoshot on (February 8, 2014, 16:39 GMT)

The unchanged Ashes Whitewash winners could well go down like the 2005 England side as never playing together again. There have been question marks over Watson test quality but with his high maintenance body who often is he going to be available.

For this Austraila team to come out of its "re-building" phase what it needs is quality young batmen. I wouldn't pick Philip Hughes if its only going to be for a couple of games he has been messed around enough. I would probably have called up Bailey, looks like a good guy to have around the team. Great in the field deserved a bit longer to see if he can adapt to the longer form

Posted by Greatest_Game on (February 8, 2014, 15:47 GMT)

@ Nero28 wrote "So SA won't feel the absense of Kallis this series. Both Kallis and Watto were match winner pace bowling batting allrounder for their sides. So with Watson's withdrawl both will be equal team ."

No. Wrong. Kallis is an all time great, Watson a helpful player at times. It is a bit like saying "Ok, Bradman is injured and Duminy is injured so that evens things out." No it does not. Duminy is not Bradman's equal, and Watson will NEVER be Kallis' equal. Never ever ever ever ever. Does that clearly convey the gulf between the two?

An all rounder is like an amphibian - hunts on land and in the water. As amphibians, Watson is a frog, and Kallis a very very large saltwater crocodile! Watson chirps a lot. Kallis said nothing, just ate the opposition. Watson catches flies, Kallis eats a buffalo or 2 for breakfast.

Another way to look at this is that Kallis is guaranteed a place in cricket's hall of fame. Watson might visit it.

Kallis will ALWAYS be missed. Watson or not.

Posted by gujratwalla on (February 8, 2014, 15:33 GMT)

Watson is not a player who perform under pressure though his bowling is genuine medium pace and very tight.I don't see much difference between him and Bailey.Both are one day batsmen WHO lack the technique for Test cricket.Marsh is another one day player though Hughes has yet to live up to his early promise.A new player is needed.Like England who blooded Stokes with success.

Posted by   on (February 8, 2014, 15:02 GMT)

watson absence will not hurt aussies but will provide the chances for new talent. to me watson test era is over. he should concentrate on one day and t20s.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (February 8, 2014, 14:37 GMT)

This is a big loss for Australia. Watson adds experience to the top order and of course his bowling is invaluable. With him out, Aus will rely on the 4 bowlers picked to take all 20 wickets....interesting.

Hope S.Marsh gets called up as his replacement.

Posted by Nero28 on (February 8, 2014, 14:36 GMT)

So SA won't feel the absense of Kallis this series. Both Kallis and Watto were match winner pace bowling batting allrounder for their sides. So with Watson's withdrawl both will be equal team .

Posted by Cricmaths123 on (February 8, 2014, 14:31 GMT)

1. Shaun Marsh should not be selected because he is not good for test cricket and he is very inconsistent. 2. George Bailey would have been a better selection as he is in great form 3. Hitting 28 runs of a world class bowler like J. Anderson is no ordinary feat and it surely is worth selection 4. If not Bailey some young talent like Maddinson, Lynn, Silk, Burns should have been selected but not S. Marsh.

Posted by   on (February 8, 2014, 14:17 GMT)

send him home for some shield cricket and don't put him back into the team until he can score runs there

Posted by stormy16 on (February 8, 2014, 14:13 GMT)

Said this many times, Watto needs to stop bowling and become a batter or Aus needs to accept this in and out from Watto. He played the whole Asehs and I really dont think he added so much with the ball to continue insisting Watto's bowling and risk him not playing at all. Aus batting is shakey as it stands and the critical #3 is now floating. Its going to hurt at some stage.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (February 8, 2014, 14:03 GMT)

What about the portugese-born lad, Henriques? Get the salsaman into the setup, i reckon.

Posted by Ms.Cricket on (February 8, 2014, 13:43 GMT)

George Bailey should have been in the squad instead of Phil Hughes. No doubt Bailey did not get a big score in the Ashes but the runs will come. Boon, Geoff Marsh etc struggled initially to get Test runs too but they were leadership class like Bailey and became pillars of the side. Bailey is a good batsman no doubt. He also brings calmness and smiles to the side while Phil Hughes brings panic and frowns. Team results follow the same pattern.

Posted by RandyOZ on (February 8, 2014, 13:17 GMT)

I can honestly say that if Shaun Marsh plays the series I will not bother watching it

Posted by rock_kamran on (February 8, 2014, 13:10 GMT)

Australia should play pattinson in place of watson and hughes of bailey. My XI would be:- 1.rogers, 2.warner 3.hughes 4.clark 5.smith 6.haddin 7.johnson 8.harris 9.siddle 10. Patto 11.lyon. There is no person in this aus team who cant bat. Why play moises if a better allrounder(batting) is present. Yeah he is johnson. Johnson is far better than moises

Posted by rock_kamran on (February 8, 2014, 13:08 GMT)

I read at cricinfo in mitch's profile that it will be shame for him if he dont retire as a genuine allrounder, so why dont give him the allrounder role and play him at no.6 and give patto a go in place of watto.

Posted by   on (February 8, 2014, 12:54 GMT)

Hopefully they play Hughes at 3 and doolan at 6, go 4 main bowlers, smith, Clarke and Warner all can bowl.. No huge loss. Would rather bring in guys who can bat than henriques who isn't the best bowler or batsman.

Think it's watsons last test series. Time to play Faulkner once his fit

Posted by DylanBrah on (February 8, 2014, 12:53 GMT)

Shaun Marsh has been rushed on the plane to SA...

Posted by evebathowsai on (February 8, 2014, 12:45 GMT)

Whatever happened to Andrew McDonald?! the guy who played 4 test matches for Australia and ever since then has gone off the radar, one that could simply replace Watson and bat at number 6 and one who can bowl some handy medium fast bowling (although more of a seamer than swing bowler). Henriques needs to do more, I totally agree with OZcricket that Butterworth should be on this tour, they could have even considered Cutting for the all rounders spot. I hope they don't pick Henriques and go with Hughes at 3 and Doolan at 6. Goodluck AUS.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (February 8, 2014, 12:27 GMT)

Please let it be hughes that replaces him.

Posted by Potatis on (February 8, 2014, 12:19 GMT)

This is not a "major blow" at all. I didn't have visions in my mind of Watson carving up hundreds at #3 against the SA bowlers, bravely holding each innings together as batsmen perish at the other end, ensuring Australia post a high competitive total in a display of wisdom from experience. The selectors will pick Doolan to do that.

Posted by MinusZero on (February 8, 2014, 12:15 GMT)

Cant Watson just retire from tests already geez

Posted by broken_chairs on (February 8, 2014, 12:00 GMT)

for the love of god play hughes over Henriques.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (February 8, 2014, 12:00 GMT)

Hughes in the top 3. Watson wasn't going to bowl in the first test anyway so we are losing a top order batsman, not an all-rounder. If they must play Doolan then put him at 6.

Posted by ZCFOutkast on (February 8, 2014, 11:42 GMT)

I wouldn't trust these reports if I were Domingo. Wait until the morning of the Test. Watson's workload is light, but he's a much better batsman than Doolan, so if he's 50-50, then Aus will take their chances with the toss and bat first(as cautious Mr Graeme Smith will put them in anyway) to give him greater chances to recover in time to bowl the last innings. Afterall, they do have Johnson, who can bowl 145+kph spell after spell, plus tireless Siddle. In any case, I think the Proteas fancy their batting in comparison to AUS so they will prepare a seamer's pitch with absolute confidence of outbatting their counterparts.(Misguided in my view).

The decision remains Hughes or Doolan in the middle order. Hughes's tactical deficiences may have long been exposed, but Steyn&Co would much rather face Doolan. As India's seamers proved, as have done SL's seamers before out here, the Proteas batsmen have strange a weaknes against threatening medium pace, so a "hobbling" Watson is still valuable.

Posted by pat_one_back on (February 8, 2014, 11:41 GMT)

Gut instinct is to back the four-man attack, Henriques is certainly capable but surely underdone for a match of this magnitude, Sidds best be ordering up bananas because he'll need to pick up the bulk of Watto's overs. Harris is too great a risk to stretch so early and MJ for best results is best served short and sharp. After high scoring and knocking up more than I can recall any Englishman reaching against the Aust attack (+Patto, no mention anywhere yet of Moises bowling) surely Hughes has to play. Sounds appropriately wary & hardened by his missed opportunities, I'm seeing some Justin Langer/Simon Katich about Hughes these days.

Posted by   on (February 8, 2014, 11:34 GMT)

Would much rather see Michael Beer, Fawad Ahmed or even James Muirhead get a go. Saffers struggle against spin and two spinners could make it a low scoring series all round...but potentially with the Aussies on top.

Posted by   on (February 8, 2014, 11:31 GMT)

We've lost an average cricket, can't replace him with a good prospect in Faulkner who'll actually bat the allrounders position at 7. So the choice is between a guy who also can't really bat or bowl or a guy who has been regularly deemed not good enough for an extended run in a poorly performing team.

Posted by wix99 on (February 8, 2014, 11:30 GMT)

After fielding the same eleven players for the Ashes series it will be interesting to see how the selectors reshape the team with at least one change required.

Posted by 11kgm on (February 8, 2014, 11:29 GMT)

That as was really unexpected, i wonder if the sun will rise tomorrow

Posted by RandyOZ on (February 8, 2014, 11:26 GMT)

Don't quite understand how this is being described as a blow? This is a massive bonus!

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (February 8, 2014, 11:14 GMT)

Don't worry, James Faulkner is a more than capable replacement. Wait on, out injured. Well, there is always his Tasmanian teammate Luke Butterworth. Wait on, for some bizarre reason he still isn't being considered by selectors. Oh well, best use a pure batsman. They included Cameron White, the most in-form batsman in the country, didn't they? What? Don't tell me that it is a choice of Phil Hughes, with the horrible technique, or Moises Henriques who is nowhere near test ready? That is awful! Time to fly over some replacements!

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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