Aussies gamble with Watson, Johnson - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Aussies gamble with Watson, Johnson

By Greg Buckle and Dave Donaghy 15/02/2006 07:34:29 PM Comments (0)

Australia's cricket selectors have gambled on Shane Watson's fitness after shoulder surgery and Mitchell Johnson's potential by naming the pair for the one-day series starting in South Africa next week.

Raw paceman Johnson and fellow Queenslander Watson, both 24, were the two selections of most interest in the 14-man squad while leading paceman Glenn McGrath pulled out because of his wife Jane's battle with cancer.

"I've been training for probably the last four weeks but I've played a couple of games so I definitely feel like I've got enough cricket under my belt to be in good form when I get the opportunity," Watson said in Brisbane on Wednesday.

Queensland all-rounder James Hopes and Western Australian paceman Brett Dorey, who were part of the victorious squad in the just-completed tri-series against Sri Lanka and South Africa, have been dumped from the squad.

Watson returns to the national side for the first time since breaking down in the first Test against the West Indies in November.

Johnson took 0-64 in his only one-day international appearance in New Zealand in December.

His ING Cup figures of 8-390 at 48.75 this season are less than flattering, while Watson has taken 0-66 in two ING Cup games.

The much-hyped all-rounder Watson, who has taken 33 wickets in 40 one-day internationals and averages 32 with the bat, said he never doubted he could get back into the side.

"It's been harder this summer because I just felt like I'd started making inroads during the Super Series (winning two man-of-the-match awards in the one-day series against the World XI in October) then playing the first Test match at the Gabba," he said.

"To be cut down made it this much harder this time because I felt like I was really starting to find my feet so that's why I made sure I did everything I possibly could to get back as quick as I can."

While Watson was in solid one-day form before his injury, Johnson has played only one game and is a gamble, admits Chairman of Selectors Trevor Hohns.

But with the giant shoes of McGrath yet to be filled and Dorey (1-134 in three one-day internationals) struggling, selectors have thrown a lifeline to the left-arm quick.

"We want to give him (Johnson) a little bit more experience and encouragement of course, as a young player and hopefully a young star on the horizon," Hohns told reporters on Wednesday at the SCG.

"I guess he is (a punt). He certainly has the package," said Hohns.

An elated Johnson said: "I wasn't thinking about this tour at all. I was just thinking about finishing the season for Queensland and it's just another bonus."

NSW opening bat Phil Jaques missed out despite his four centuries in the ING Cup and his 94 on debut last month in the tri-series match against South Africa.

With Australia conceding four totals over 265 in the tri-series, it's clear that selectors are worried about their bowling attack, adding pacemen Watson and Johnson to complement Tuesday night's 12-man side.

Hohns said he was unsure if McGrath would be available for the three-Test series to follow the five one-dayers.

While Hohns said Australia's batting depth was encouraging, with Jaques unable to squeeze into the squad, it was a different story with the pace attack.

"We have a crop of four, five, maybe half-a-dozen fast bowlers all in a pack," Hohns added.

"We would like to see one of those put their hand up, come out of that pack and grab the opportunity when it's given to them."

Australia will depart Sydney on Monday for a Twenty20 match in Johannesburg on February 24, followed by a five-match one-day international series, starting on February 26.

Australian squad: Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist (v-capt), Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke, Stuart Clark, Brad Hogg, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Mick Lewis, Damien Martyn, Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds.

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