Watson strain may trigger changes

THE ASHES

Shane Watson’s groin strain could trigger up to three changes to Australia’s side for Friday’s Sydney Test.

Coach and selector Darren Lehmann is determined to have five bowlers in his team.

Lehmann has hinted that pace-bowling all-rounder Watson is unlikely to play as a batsman only, despite his unbeaten 83 in Sunday’s eight-wicket win over England in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne.

Australia have fielded the same 11 all summer but batting coach Michael Di Venuto admitted yesterday that Watson was in doubt.

Fast bowler Ryan Harris is also under an injury cloud because of knee soreness and a foot blister.

And No 6 batsman George Bailey, averaging 27.20 in his debut series, could face the axe in a reshuffled batting order.

Australia have named a 14-man squad including uncapped No 3 batsman Alex Doolan, uncapped paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile and one-Test all-rounder James Faulkner.

The inclusion of Faulkner if Watson fails a fitness test is unlikely to be a straight swap given that Watson bats at No 3.

Faulkner could find himself batting as low as No 7, one spot below in-form wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin.

Coulter-Nile is a possible replacement for Harris, who is determined, at age 34, to play at the SCG, chasing a 5-0 sweep.

‘‘Our No 3’s under a bit of a fitness cloud, Shane Watson with his groin and body in general. So Alex is just providing cover for Shane if he doesn’t come up,’’ De Venuto said yesterday.

‘‘But as we saw yesterday he moved pretty well in the middle during his 80-odd, so we’re hopeful he’ll be up and about for Sydney, both bowling and batting.

‘‘We’ve also got an all-rounder in James Faulkner as well, so things might change around – it’s all up in the air at the moment.’’

Doolan, who has played under Bailey’s captaincy in two Sheffield Shield-winning teams, said his fellow Tasmanian deserved an extended period in the baggy green cap.

‘‘He’s probably not making as many as he would like, but he’s four games into a career and there aren’t too many guys who walk onto the scene and dominate from the get-go,’’ Doolan said.

‘‘So I would hope he’s given a good enough chance to set his mark.’’

Australia bowling coach Craig McDermott said Harris had suffered a blister after bowling in new boots.

‘‘Most of the guys bowl with brand new boots all the time,’’ McDermott said.

‘‘He cuts out a certain part of the back of his boot and I don’t think it was quite done correctly by whoever does it for him.’’

McDermott said having Watson in the side as a genuine all-rounder was an unbelievable help to the side, as South Africa had found with retiring Jacques Kallis who is retiring this week. AAP

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