Watson should play if fit to bat
Michael Slater
16:00 AEST Thu Nov 15 2012

In bat with Slats
Michael Slater is a former opening batsman for Australia and now well respected member of the Wide World of Sports cricket commentary team.
Michael Slater
  Have your say on the First Test

There is some debate at the moment over Shane Watson's selection for the Second Test against South Africa at the Adelaide Oval. Cricket Australia's high performance manager Pat Howard has said that Watson's ability to bowl will play a big part in whether or not he is brought back into the side. I can't understand that logic at all. Watson should only miss the Adelaide Test if his calf is not quite right and playing would cause further damage.

Watson is an incumbent top-three batsman who was replaced by Rob Quiney for the First Test through injury. The long-standing procedure is that when an incumbent has recovered from an injury, he goes straight back into the team. Usually his replacement is the one to make way, unless that replacement has made an extremely strong case for staying, in which case selectors would find someone else to drop.

I thought Rob Quiney showed a lot of promise with the bat during his short stay at the crease. His footwork against some fairly lethal fast bowling was sharp and precise and he looked right at home at Test level. I think it was probably nervous energy that saw him play so aggressively but in the end he was extremely unlucky to lose his wicket to a shot that was only centimetres away from being a well-struck six. Quiney will be back in the Australia side one day, but he should not keep Watson out at the moment.

The argument that Watson needs to bowl to make the side as an allrounder is not something I agree with. Any player who bats in the top four of a Test side is there for his batting ability. Being able to bowl as well as Watson does is just a bonus. Quiney bowled a total of 11 overs in the First Test and was very economical but hardly threatening. He doesn't even bowl for Victoria and has three first class wickets to his name. Michael Clarke has Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting who are capable of bowling to Quiney's standard. Quiney is a batsman and he should not be considered over Watson because of some perceived allround ability.

Clarke has proven once again to be one of the best batsmen in the world and his captaincy continues to develop and mature. His knock of 259 not out at the Gabba was just brilliant, coming to the crease with Australia under immense pressure. Clarke has gone a long way to silence his critics and every time he steps onto the field for Australia he seems to improve. His declaration on Day 5 of the Test really put South Africa under pressure.

It was always going to be an uphill battle to get a result once Day 2 was completely washed out. The Gabba pitch flattened out nicely into an excellent batting deck. But Australia, through the aggressive batting of Ed Cowan, Hussey and Clarke were able to make the final couple of sessions a real test for the tourists. Australia scored at over four runs an over, which is exceptional in a Test against the world's best bowling line-up. I think the way Australia bounced back would have given them the confidence that they can beat South Africa in this series.

Moving to Adelaide for the Second Test, the selectors can improve the bowling attack by including Mitchell Starc. Ben Hilfenhaus bowled well in spells in Brisbane but the left-arm variety is something that was really missing from the attack. Nathan Lyon is improving as an off-spin bowler and that flicked straight ball he used to dismiss Jacques Rudolph was an impressive variation. Bringing Starc into the side will also improve Lyon's effectiveness as the left-arm over the wicket foot marks will give him some rough to aim for late in the Test.

Adding Watson and Starc to the Australia line-up will strengthen and add greater balance to the team. The South Africans will be under pressure to perform in Adelaide and the Aussies have the momentum going into this vital Test.

What did you think of Australia's performance in the First Test?
Should Shane Watson come back into the side as a batsman only?
Should Australia make any changes for the Second Test?

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