Watson eyes Boxing Day Test return - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Watson eyes Boxing Day Test return

07/12/2006 06:59:54 PM Comments (0)

Shane Watson is setting his sights on a Boxing Day Test return as his troublesome hamstring allows under-fire Damien Martyn to rest easier.

Martyn is all but assured of a home Ashes Test at the WACA next Thursday with all-rounder Watson still about a week away from full fitness.

Three low scores (29, 11 and 5) against England in the opening two Tests, and the desire for Watson's fast seamers to provide key back-up to Australia's pace attack, had put the veteran No.4 batsman in danger of a career-ending axing.

Also giving Martyn extra breathing space is a thigh injury to Victorian Brad Hodge, the man dropped to give the West Australian an unexpected return to the Test side in March.

The national selectors are now expected to name an unchanged Australian squad on Friday.

Watson had hoped to press his claims for the third Test by playing for Queensland in the one-day clash against Victoria at the Gabba.

But he made the call to miss a second day-night match in the three days after being unable to stretch out fully in Sydney.

Watson admitted a big summer, capped by the World Cup in March-April, had forced him to think about the consequences of rushing his return.

"There's an unbelievable amount of cricket coming up," he told AAP.

"We've got to think about not just trying to get right for the third Test, but making sure that it won't be any longer than that. I will be right for around Christmas time at least, in a worst-case scenario I suppose.

"There is so much cricket to come, with the one-day series (against England and New Zealand) and then the World Cup.

"There's one thing I will be, I will be absolutely fresh compared to maybe the guys who have toiled away so hard over the last couple of Tests."

Nevertheless, Watson's slow recovery from an injury initially expected to just keep him out of just the Ashes opener is a bitter blow for the 25-year-old.

It will also put extra pressure on veteran Test spearhead Glenn McGrath who has had to play through the pain barrier of a sore heel in back-to-back matches.

"It's just one of those things. I've been trying, with all the medical staff, trying to get up for the first Test and then the second Test, it has probably prolonged it a little bit," said Watson, who is now set to return for the Bulls against South Australia on December 13 in Adelaide.

"It hasn't really had a full-on chance to absolutely heal."

Meanwhile, Test opener Matthew Hayden believes under-fire Martyn's second innings dismissal proved his "invaluable" role in the Australian side.

Looking for quick runs, Martyn stepped back to smack England skipper Andrew Flintoff through third man but only managed to guide the ball into the waiting hands of wide slip.

Martyn was out for five, leaving Australia at 4-121 with time running out chasing 168 for victory.

The cheap dismissal ensured the knives were sharpened, but Hayden said Martyn should be applauded for his selfless team-first approach typified by his brief second innings knock and not roasted for his lack of runs.

Hayden - who is also under pressure to hold his place in the Australian cricket side - said Martyn had sacrificed his wicket "for the betterment of the team".

"Damien could have been selfish the other day but he wasn't," Hayden said in Brisbane.

"You can't have too much expectation on blokes who are throwing away (their wicket) for the betterment of the team.

"He's invaluable to our side.

"It (Adelaide) was an amazing team Test win.

"People did things that they had to do for the betterment of the team."

Hayden said it was also too early to judge his form after a couple of "sacrificial" innings of his own.

He is averaging 22 this series with just 88 runs and a top score of 37.

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