AUSTRALIAN coach Mickey Arthur is upbeat about the possibility of Shane Watson returning for next week's second Test in Adelaide, but the all-rounder and vice-captain has been told he will need to prove his fitness as a bowler and will not be considered as a batsman only.
Watson strained a calf muscle while bowling for New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match in Brisbane 12 days ago, forcing his withdrawal from the first Test at the Gabba.
His replacement, Rob Quiney, scored only nine with the bat at No. 3 but made a strong impression with the Australian hierarchy, taking two outstanding catches and, according to Arthur, fitting in well.
If fully fit, Watson would slot straight back in at the expense of the Victorian and there is an increasing likelihood that both will be named on Friday in an extended squad for Adelaide, with the all-rounder getting the nod if his calf is cleared by team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris.
Arthur said on Wednesday Watson would return to bowling practice on Friday. ''Watto has had two net [sessions]. He's come through them very well.
''He did a bit of running [on Tuesday] and he came through that well. He's having a bowl on Friday and we'll see later in the week, and into next week, exactly where Watto is.''
If Watson can bowl in Adelaide he would add vital additional balance to a bowling attack that early in the Gabba Test struggled to make an impact against the top-rated South Africans, with left-armer Mitchell Starc also providing a different flavour if he is brought into the side for Ben Hilfenhaus.
Australia has previously baulked at picking Watson as a batsman only and that is a mantra it will not retreat from in this series.
Australian general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, said on Wednesday that selectors decided on a series to series basis whether Watson had to play as an all-rounder, or could be chosen as a specialist batsman, and against the Proteas it had been decided he must be in a position to bowl.
''If the Test match was tomorrow he wouldn't be playing,'' Howard said. ''But he's progressing and I think when the team goes [to Adelaide] on Sunday we'll have a far better indication of where he is at.''
Howard said it would count heavily against Watson at the selection table if he could not bowl. ''The value and the balance of the team is what the selection panel talk about. It's the selection panel's call when they come together on this,'' he said.
''The ability for people to take up bowling slack is important, so without making it a Shane Watson conversation, the ability to take overs up was pretty well demonstrated in that first Test.''
Hilfenhaus lacked penetration in Brisbane and selectors will consider him making way for Starc on an Adelaide track in which Starc could take advantage of the rough produced by spinner, Nathan Lyon.
''Mitchell is playing a shield game at the moment - we'll see how he goes in that one and it might give us another option come Adelaide,'' Arthur said.