Port Elizabeth: Captain Michael Clarke has indicated that Shane Watson will not return to the Australia side as a specialist batsman for the second Test against South Africa, at St George’s Park, on Thursday.
All-rounder Watson missed the first Test with a calf problem and the visitors want him to be fit enough to bowl. “The information I have from the selectors is that if Watson is not bowling, he’ll be unavailable for selection,” Clarke said on Wednesday.
“You’ll probably have to ask (coach) Darren Lehmann and the other selectors. But from the information I have, they’ll only select him if he’s available to bowl.
“As soon as Watto is fit and available, I know he’ll want to be back out on the park. I don’t know if you guys watched him in the nets, but he’s creaming them at the moment.”
Watson’s replacement at No. 3 in the first Test, Alex Doolan, fell 11 runs short of a century on debut in the second innings. Despite the apparent concern over Watson as a specialist batsman, Clarke said he hopes the 32-year-old can make a swift return to the side.
“He’s a huge player for us. So, the sooner we can have Watto back, I think the better it is for this team,” Clarke said.
“Any time you’ve got a class all-rounder available, you’ve got to try and find some room.”
On the other hand, South Africa are not intimidated by Mitchell Johnson’s breathtaking stuff that played a leading role in earning Australia a lead in the three-match series, said captain Graeme Smith.
“It’s important not to get caught up in the hype (around Johnson),” Smith remarked.
“Obviously, we know Mitchell has bowled extremely well. He has bowled aggressively. We all know that creates headlines, creates stories and fanfare. But we will have to fight it out.
“Certainly, there’s a huge amount of respect in our team for someone who is performing well. But it’s important not to get caught up in that and instead, focus on what’s important, which is us performing well and getting our skills right.”
Johnson got Smith out cheaply in both innings at the Centurion, but the southpaw backed himself. “I’ve faced Mitchell a lot of times — times where he’s had the better of me and times I’ve had the better of him,” Smith said.
“One dismissal doesn’t make you lose credibility. There are a lot of guys who’ve been able to perform against the fastest bowlers in the world over a long time.”