|Player:||SR Watson, JM Buchanan, MJ Clarke, SR Clark, MG Johnson, SW Tait, SJ Harmison|
DateLine: 20th November 2006
Coach John Buchanan says he is looking for injured all-rounder Shane Watson to bowl at 60 percent in the nets here Monday to test out his strained hamstring.
Watson is in doubt to play in Thursday's Ashes opener against England at the Gabba, but he has been buoyed by a medical report that shows his right hamstring strain is not as bad as first expected.
Buchanan said Watson could help his Ashes cause by bowling at over half-pace at the Test squad's morning training session Monday. If Watson fails and is ruled out, Australia's selectors are likely to significantly reshape the line-up by bringing in a sixth batsman, Michael Clarke, and most likely paceman Stuart Clark, and dispensing with playing an all-rounder. Australia has played an all-rounder in all 12 Tests since it lost the Ashes to England last year.
Watson strained his hamstring bowling in a domestic one-dayer in Perth on Friday, but Buchanan said Sunday the all-rounder's latest setback was not as bad as first thought.
"It's a little better than anticipated," he said. "There's no deadline. Possibly the object tomorrow would be to have him bowl at maybe 60 percent. If he could do that, it would be a step in the right direction."
Buchanan also gave a nod towards Clark's selection, ahead of speedsters Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait, if Watson was ruled out. "Stuart was an outstanding bowler for us in South Africa and then in Bangladesh, so his Test starting point has been very good," Buchanan said. "The selectors tell us he's kept going in the right direction and he presents on this (Gabba) surface as an important bowler. He's tall, he hits the deck, gets good bounce and can turn the ball a bit, so I think he presents a very good case."
England also received encouraging news on the injury front, as strike bowler Steve Harmison bowled for 40 minutes in the nets Sunday to move a step closer towards overcoming tightness in his side.