Watson to lead Australians in tour game
Shane Watson will lead the Australian XI in their two-day tour match against the England Lions in Northampton, with the captain Michael Clarke and vice-captain Brad Haddin both resting from the fixture.
Watson has been passed fit to bat in the match, which starts on Friday, but he will not bowl as he continues to work towards full fitness after suffering pain in his right hip/groin during the fourth Test. However, the Australians are confident Watson will be able to bowl in the final Test at The Oval, which begins next Wednesday.
Haddin, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle have already headed to London to prepare, and Clarke, Chris Rogers and Jackson Bird are the other squad members who will sit out of the Northampton game. That leaves Mitchell Starc and James Faulkner as the only pace bowlers in the team, although the coach Darren Lehmann floated the possibility of wicketkeeper Matthew Wade sending down some seamers if required.
Wade bowled his only first-class over during the Hobart Test against Sri Lanka in December and it was impressive, skiddy and quicker than expected. Lehmann said the match would be a good opportunity to get a large amount of overs from spinners Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar, and also to give the batsmen some time in the middle.
"We'll give them [Agar and Lyon] a decent bowl," Lehmann said. "You'd be mad not to. It's a great opportunity to bowl a lot of overs. Steve Smith will bowl a few, you might see Wade or Warner bowl a few. We'll see how we go.
"The thing for us is to just get the batters some time in the middle. We can only bat for a day and bowl for a day. I suppose it's like a longer training session, if you like, and it's not first-class. For us it's still a chance to impress the selectors and perform really well and get to where we want to get to. It's still important, it's two long days."
The match will be played to a maximum of 100 overs per side for the first innings.
Australian XI Shane Watson (capt), Ashton Agar, Ed Cowan, James Faulkner, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade (wk), David Warner.
England Lions Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Gary Ballance, Keith Barker, Jos Buttler, James Harris, Simon Kerrigan, Alex Lees, Liam Plunkett, Ben Stokes.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here