Watson dropped, Haddin withdraws
Australia's selectors have chosen to drop the allrounder Shane Watson after also learning that the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will miss the second Ashes Test at Lord's for personal reasons. Peter Nevill, 29, will make his Test debut in Haddin's absence while Mitchell Marsh is set for inclusion at Watson's expense.
Haddin will remain on the tour and there is no suggestion that he is retiring, but it is now hard to see Watson returning to the Test team now that the selection chairman Rod Marsh and the coach Darren Lehmann have decided to go with Marsh.
The decision on Watson was brought about by his poor first Test at Cardiff and a recent run of indifferent performances in the long form of the game. He has not made a century since the Perth Test in December 2013, and has also failed to make a significant enough impact with the ball to merit a place. In Cardiff Watson was twice out lbw, a vivid reminder of an enduring blind spot in his technique.
Marsh has meanwhile shown signs of significant progress, doubling his tally of first-class centuries with a pair of bold innings during the tour warm-up fixtures against Kent and Essex while also demonstrating a more mature approach off the field. Marsh has played four Tests for Australia, but this is the first time he has been chosen directly ahead of Watson.
Earlier on Tuesday, Haddin was seen in conversation with Lehmann in the Pavilion and did not emerge from the dressing room to go to the nets. Haddin was also spoken to by the team psychologist Michael Lloyd. Meanwhile the reserve gloveman Nevill was talking to Rod Marsh in the Nursery End nets amid a range of conferences among Australian players and staff.
The captain Michael Clarke had his head bowed as the news was relayed to him after he had batted. Nevill and Haddin, both New South Welshmen, have a close relationship, with Haddin saying earlier on this tour he was delighted to have Nevill as his reserve and potential replacement.
It is not the first time that Haddin has been forced to absent himself from national duty due to personal reasons. In 2012 he withdrew from a tour of the West Indies due to the ill health of his daughter, Mia, and subsequently spent six months out of the game. He returned to the New South Wales team in time for the 2012-13 summer, and fought his way back into the first-choice wicketkeeping spot in time for the 2013 Ashes tour.
Haddin went on to be a major contributor to the Australian 5-0 sweep of England in the home summer of 2013-14, playing a series of outlandish and effective innings with the bat while also being integral to the team as Clarke's vice-captain and a mentor to younger players. It was Haddin's preference last summer for Steve Smith to replace him as vice-captain when Clarke was injured and thus take the role of stand-in leader. Haddin was then a part of the World Cup-winning team before retiring from limited overs matches on the eve of the current Ashes tour.
Nevill has played one match on tour, against Essex at Chelmsford, and will now become the 443rd Australian Test cricketer. He has impressed good judges with his combination of sound glove work and attractive batting, and scored 78 against Essex.
The loss of Haddin is a blow to Australia's hopes of levelling the series at Lord's, even if he endured a difficult match in the first Test at Cardiff, dropping Joe Root on the first morning of the match and twice falling for low scores as the tourists tumbled to a 169-run defeat.
Watson has enjoyed a more or less uninterrupted run in the Test team since Lehmann took over from Mickey Arthur as coach in 2013, missing three matches due to minor injuries. However his returns as a batsman have not warranted a place - only three times past 50 in his past 18 innings - and his bowling returns have also trailed off, tallying only 13 wickets in his past 22 Tests.
He had been dropped from the ODI team during the World Cup earlier this year, but was swiftly reinstated after one game and went on to play a pivotal role for Australia in victories over Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It is difficult to see him returning to the Test team this time, however.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig