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‘No rift with Watson’

Michael Clarke

Adelaide: Australia’s Shane Watson has failed to prove his fitness for the second Test against South Africa and was left out of an unchanged team for the Adelaide Oval on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old all-rounder missed the drawn first Test in Brisbane with a calf injury but had hoped to play as a specialist batsman in the second, which starts on Thursday.

“Once we got here our intent was to give Watto every chance as a very important player and vice captain of the team, but unfortunately we’ve run out of time,” Australia captain Michael Clarke told reporters at Adelaide Oval.

“At this stage we think he’s a couple of days short of his best. Our job is to get him fully right and we’ve now got eight days until the third Test in Perth.”

Watson’s fitness and availability to play has been a source of heated media speculation in Australia, with team management giving mixed messages about whether he would be considered for selection only as a batsman.

Watson, who averages 37.54 with the bat and has taken 59 wickets in 35 Tests, has been plagued by injuries throughout his career and missed the entire four-test series against India last year.

Clarke, who as a selector had input into Watson’s omission, brushed off media speculation of a rift between himself and his vice-captain.

“We have a great relationship firstly,” said Clarke.

“I know there’s been talk of that being a little bit different but Watto and I, our friendship and our professional relationship when it comes to captain and vice-captain, is as close as I can certainly ask for. There’s no rift with Watto.”

Left-hander Rob Quiney, who made nine in his single innings on debut at the Gabba, keeps his place in the side and is again likely to bat at No. 3.

Paceman Ben Hilfenhaus has also retained his position in the team with left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc again handed the 12th man spot he had in Brisbane.

Although economical, Tasmanian workhorse Hilfenhaus battled for two tail-end wickets at the Gabba and had the least penetration among the fast bowlers, which included James Pattinson and Peter Siddle.

But Clarke took heart from the way they lifted in the second innings, having been put to the sword in the first by century-makers Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla.

“I think we’ve got a good combination. We’ve got a good mixture of aggression but also bowlers who can bowl long spells and dry runs up if required out there on that wicket,” he said.

“Generally in Adelaide, you have to bowl quite tight during periods of the game.”