Watson faces Australia Ashes axe

2015-07-16 06:58
Shane Watson (AFP Photo)

London - Australia, reeling from the late withdrawal of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, are reportedly set to drop Shane Watson for the second Ashes Test at Lord's on Thursday as they bid to level the five-match series at 1-1.

Watson was twice out lbw cheaply in all-too familiar fashion as England, against many pre-series predictions, won the first Test in Cardiff by the crushing margin of 169 runs with more than a day to spare last week.

With his medium-paced bowling barely used by captain Michael Clarke at Sophia Gardens, Australia's Fairfax Media reported Wednesday that the 34-year-old Watson would be dropped at Lord's and replaced by fellow all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, 11 years his junior.

Watson's lbw double in Cardiff means he has now passed fifty in just two of his past 16 innings.

"My gut feeling is they'll probably go with Mitchell Marsh," former Australia captain Steve Waugh told Sky Sports before the Fairfax report, subsequently cited by Cricket Australia's own website, was published.

"A guy at that age... when he's played a long time, when you make a decision like this now - it's pretty much final. There's probably no way back from being dropped now."

However, Australia captain Michael Clarke told reporters at Lord's on Wednesday that he still didn't know the composition of the team, as he'd yet to hold a final pre-match meeting with coach Darren Lehmann and on-tour chairman of selectors Rodney Marsh.

"I don't know what the eleven is so I don't know how anyone else does at this stage unless the selectors have spoken to the media before they've spoken to the captain or the team. There's always speculation."

Mitchell Marsh, the son of former Australia opener Geoff Marsh, has played in four Tests and impressed in the team's opening two tour matches by scoring hundreds against both Kent and Essex.

Haddin, 37, withdrew on Tuesday for what a team spokeswoman said were "family reasons", although he will remain with the squad in London.

Peter Nevill, also Haddin's New South Wales deputy, is now set for an international debut on Thursday.

This is not the first time Haddin has put his family ahead of his cricket career. In 2012, Haddin took several months out of the game after his then 17-month-old daughter Mia was diagnosed with neuroblastoma -- a rare form of cancer.

Australia appear to be increasingly confident that left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc, the pick of their attack in Cardiff, will be fit for Lord's despite suffering an ankle injury in Wales.

Starc took a full part in training on Tuesday and Clarke said: "Starcy is going really well. That is a real positive for us."

Clarke likened Australia's position to that of being behind in a best of five-set tennis match as he recalled watching Novak Djokovic's victory over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon men's singles final on Sunday.

"I was certain Roger was going to win, but by the second set I wasn't so certain," said Clarke.

"That is sport right there. You have to be able to cop a few smacks in the mouth and get up and go again.

"We got beaten in round one, but now it's time for round two."

For England, whose first match under new Australian coach Trevor Bayliss resulted in a commanding victory, the challenge is to put two wins together - something that has so far eluded them this year in Test series against the West Indies and New Zealand.

Alastair Cook is set to captain an unchanged England side although there is a slight doubt over the fitness of off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali because of a stomach problem.

"Cardiff has gone now and we need to get on the front foot," said Cook.

"One win from one is pretty good but can we do it again?

"We haven't in the last two series so we need to now."

Read more on:    australia  |  ashes  |  shane watson  |  cricket

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