Australia in South Africa 2013-14 February 24, 2014

Watson to replace Doolan or Marsh

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One of Alex Doolan or Shaun Marsh will make way for Shane Watson provided the Australia allrounder proves his fitness. James Pattinson and Jackson Bird will also push for recalls ahead of the decisive third Test against South Africa at Newlands, following the hosts' resounding victory in Port Elizabeth.

Major contributors to Australia's victory at Centurion, neither Doolan nor Marsh could add much at St George's Park, where both were dismissed cheaply in each innings. Doolan hung around marginally longer than Marsh, who made a pair that gave him the unflattering tally of six ducks in his past 11 Test innings.

The coach Darren Lehmann said he was eager to return Watson to the team, leaving the selectors to deliberate on who should make way for a match in which Australia must find a way to banish memories not only of Sunday's defeat but also their razing for 47 to lose the dramatic Cape Town Test of 2011.

"As long as he's [Watson] bowling overs and he's fit, we would love to have that extra bowler," Lehmann said. "We'll have to wait and see how that comes along. He seems all right, batting doesn't seem an issue. Hopefully he'll be able to bowl.

"At the end of the day, if we have to fit Shane Watson in and someone misses out, it will be really unlucky. It depends on whether we need the fifth bowler or we don't, and we'll have to wait until we see the wicket. And he's got to be fully fit. All those things come into it."

Watson was among a group of players who returned to St George's Park to train on what would have been day five of the Test, as forecast heavy storms did not eventuate. Others included Pattinson and Bird, the reserve fast bowlers on the tour who are now notably fresher than Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle. Lehmann admitted there would be a temptation to bolster the bowling attack after Harris and Siddle showed signs of flagging under their heavy workload in Port Elizabeth.

"We'll have a look at it, velocity's a big thing for us," Lehmann said. "You certainly need pace, we've seen that with Johnson, Harris and Siddle when he's up and running he's bowling 135kph plus, so we'll have a look at that over the next few days, we'll see how they pull up.

"It'll be conditions and what we think is going to get us 20 wickets. We've got to make sure we've got the side to do that, because if you can't get 20 you can't win the Test match. And I hate draws. We don't seem to play draws anyway so that's alright."

Lehmann's quip about draws highlighted Australia's knack for extremes, though he argued this batting collapse in Port Elizabeth had been less galling than that in Durham last year due to the quality of the bowling on display. "It did take me back, what did we lose, 9 for 64 working from when we were 1-152? We weren't in a bad spot then," Lehmann said. "The pleasing thing for me is that we got bowled out, if that makes sense.

"They bowled very well and we didn't cope with it well enough so we have to improve in that area, but with their high-class bowling attack, full credit to them. In Durham we played some bad shots to lose those wickets, the disappointing thing was our first innings runs, we harp on it all the time but we have to get better in the first innings. I wasn't pleased to be bowled out, in the manner we got out we got bowled out, in Durham we played some poor shots but they were too good for us here."

I hate draws. We don't seem to play draws anyway, so that's alright.
Darren Lehmann

Australia's poor record on slow pitches of the kind produced at St George's Park is now well established, and Lehmann said the best ways to counter reverse swing would be discussed by his batsmen before the Newlands Test began. He used the attitude demonstrated by Chris Rogers and David Warner opening up in the second innings as a starting point.

"It was our first innings batting. We didn't bat long enough or well enough, that's as simple as it gets. We weren't patient enough with our batting," Lehmann said. "If we had that patience [of Rogers and Warner] we would have made 350, 400 in the first innings and those deliveries wouldn't have got you out in the first innings because the ball wasn't reverse swinging like that. That's just a part of the great game we play. We need to talk about it because we need to keep learning how to play the game. We need to keep improving."

As for the return to Cape Town, scene of an extraordinary match Lehmann was not a part of, the captain Michael Clarke said his men could look at how South Africa rebounded from Centurion as an indicator of what was possible. "Probably the same way South Africa got over it after Centurion," he said. "I said last time we were here I wished there was a third Test match being 1-1, so now we've got that challenge.

"Cape Town is a magnificent place to play cricket. Generally when the sun's out, it's a good wicket, and when it's overcast there's a lot of hard work to be done for the batters. So it's going to be a challenge no doubt about it, but it's exciting. What we're seeing now is two teams pushing extremely hard to have success, we're trying to challenge the No. 1 team in the world in their own backyard. So we know how difficult that is and we're excited by the challenge."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on February 28, 2014, 4:08 GMT

    Cannot believe Watson is going to get another chance,if Australia field first what is the bet he will break down yet again(getting quite boring). And of course it will be Doolan who gets the chop, lets face it Tasmanian's have never been welcome since the man with the moe (Boonie) played have they Bill Lawry. Another curly one I heard they could rest R.Harris why would you playing for the series or does that not matter any more as long as we put up a good show?

  • RandyOZ on February 26, 2014, 22:14 GMT

    You know you are terrible when Shane is replacing you!

  • OneEyedAussie on February 26, 2014, 5:52 GMT

    @VivGilchrist on (February 25, 2014, 9:15 GMT): I'd rather see neither Marsh nor Watson (at least not the version of Watson likely to play at CT i.e batting at 3 and only managing to bowl a few overs). I would have preferred the selection of a squad that rewarded domestic FC performance, but that's just me.

  • 9-Monkeys on February 26, 2014, 4:51 GMT

    65 in 10 innings makes for an average of 10.83' RandyOz. Hardly spectacular but better than you maths at least.

  • Greatest_Game on February 26, 2014, 4:33 GMT

    Newlands is SA's best pitch for spinners. Has always been that way. Nathon Lyon may well have a big role to play for Aus. He could be key! I'm more worried about him than Johnson!

    2 key components at Newlands: spin and swing, with seam off the pitch close behind.

  • Greatest_Game on February 26, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    In his last match at Newlands, Watson took 5/17 in SA's batting collapse. Watson could prove to be a headache for SA again. Like it or not, he can swing the ball, which the rest of the bunch are not much good at. I'd take him over "Duck Pond" Marsh any day.

    Debate about their batting is academic, Neither is any great shakes, and should be relied on, but Watson can add much needed bowling strength. It seems obvious to me, & I don't even want Aus to win.

  • Greatest_Game on February 26, 2014, 4:02 GMT

    @ disco_bob now believes "I think it is safe to say the Marsh experiment is over."

    Here's an oddball stat for you Bob. Shaun Marsh has scored a duck - zero, nada, nothing, every 2.5 test innings he has played. That average is worse that of The Phantom himself. Yes, Chris Martin scored a duck once every 2.89 innings. That does seem hard to believe, but it certainly suggests the Marsh experiment has run it's course.

  • Shaggy076 on February 25, 2014, 23:23 GMT

    It wont be a change of thinking or strategy at all by Australia - the intention was always to play Watson who only missed through fitness. The bowlers will not be changed unless there is a niggle. I think although a lot of people are talking down our bowling performance in the first test but there was a lot of quality especially early until worn down by the grind (Watson lessens the grind). There was a lot of balls that could have got wickets on another day ie Elgars prods to the leg gully off Johnson. The South Africans showed incredible discipline and need to be commended. They played an exceptional match. On another day we could have picked up those early wickets and easily have won the test. Dont change a thing from the original plan, this team won the first test and the series is still on. Can't wait for the last match.

  • finncam on February 25, 2014, 20:25 GMT

    Can't believe Watson the batsman is being hyped up. The only significant contributions he's made to the batting all summer have been when there was no pressure. Under pressure to make runs when the Aus bowlers haven't been successful, he's almost as weak as Marsh. Another talent that is given far more due than he deserves.

  • Chris_P on February 25, 2014, 19:48 GMT

    @Andre117. 39.1 is a poor average? Interesting take, I would suggest you don't play cricket or haven't tried it at a serious level if you think that is poor, but you got every right to post what you think no matter how left field it is. FYI, Marcus North hadn't played cricket for an extended break due to the horrific death of his brother, Cooper's form in first class didn't deserve consideration, nor Cowan's while Maxwell had, at the time of selection, ordinary form in first class cricket. White had form along with Hughes. I have seen Doolan bat on difficult tracks at the SCG a number of times & he showed me enough to consider selection as he really applied himself in tough conditions.