Katich and Bollinger in Ashes fitness race
Simon Katich and Doug Bollinger will have only one first-class match to prepare for the opening Ashes Test after their injuries kept them out of New South Wales' Sheffield Shield side to face Victoria from Wednesday. Katich (thumb) and Bollinger (stomach) picked up the problems during the tour of India and they will have to be picked on faith when the first Test squad is named on Monday.
Bollinger bowled in the nets with the Australian one-day side in Sydney last week and is scheduled to come back against Tasmania next week. Katich's complaint originally carried a six-week recovery time and he is hopeful of being fit for the same encounter, although his problem is the greater worry for the Test side.
Katich has formed an outstanding opening combination with Shane Watson and any setbacks to his injury will further disrupt a batting line-up that is already struggling. The Ashes begins at the Gabba on November 25 and Australia's selectors will have to consider an extended squad to cover all options. Australia A play England in Hobart next week, with that fixture starting after the Test unit has been selected.
New South Wales have a formidable squad for the Shield contest against Victoria after picking eight men with Test experience, along with Mitchell Starc, who performed strongly in Sunday's ODI. Watson will have his first match with the Blues and plans to play again next week to fine-tune for England.
It will be the third state Watson has represented and he said he would feel strange pulling on a blue cap, especially after always hoping the Blues would lose State of Origin rugby league contests. "It's an honour to represent such a successful team as New South Wales, but I'm always a Queenslander through and through," he told ESPNcricinfo. "I've been very lucky that Tassie gave me an opportunity to start my career, and New South Wales gave me the opportunity too, to be really content with things outside my cricket."
Stuart Clark captains the Blues while Starc, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith and Phillip Hughes will be able to use the game to prepare for next week's Australia A game. Brad Haddin and Nathan Hauritz are also in the squad and will have at least one more four-day hit-out before the opening Test.
New South Wales squad Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, Phil Jaques, Michael Clarke, Usman Khawaja, Brad Haddin (wk), Steven Smith, Nathan Hauritz, Stuart Clark (capt), Mark Cameron, Trent Copeland, Mitchell Starc.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo