Should Shane Watson replace Alex Doolan?

Australia’s desecration of South Africa’s batting at Centurion was decisive. I have never seen a more terrifying image on a cricket field than when Mitchell Johnson struck Hashim Amla in the helmet grille. That moment sums up the challenge straddling the Proteas.

Had Amla not been wearing a helmet it is possible he would have been killed. The ball would have certainly disintegrated his jaw and shattered every tooth. The footage is frightening.

What is Johnson doing?

When highlighting Johnson’s assets barely anyone mentions his left arm. With 254 wickets at 27.5 Johnson is one of the best lefties. The best of them is Wasim Akram who swung it both ways. Akram wasn’t a murderer. Johnson is and batsmen know it. To right hand batters he hits the blind spot causing concern for rib cages and faces. Lefties struggle to cope with the line: go back and you lose your poles, get in line and lose your face.

It’s a testament to Amla’s sheer world class quality that he went on to score 35 after copping that on his first ball. If he, Smith, Faf du Plessis and AB deVilliers get a plan to counter Johnson then the series will be back in the balance.

Port Elizabeth does present different prospects.

More toil will be required from bowlers on a slower wicket and some uncertainty over Australia’s XI might play into the host’s favour. South Africa’s quality means they’re capable of a fight back, perhaps even a 2-1 win.

The Watson Question

Yet again Shane Waton’s selection raises debate. He was ruled out via injury and replaced by Alex Doolan who scored 27 and 89. The latter was a fine innings in tough circumstances. Doolan’s performance coupled with the fact he’s a genuine number 3 should guarantee a place for the remainder of this series. Australia have been searching for a number 3 for some time. It is not clear yet if Doolan is the answer, but it is clear that Shane Watson is not. So why pick Watson?

His bowling is handy. Watson’s stump to stump medium pace builds pressure by conceding few runs. It allows Michael Clarke to rest his thoroughbred pacemen or set them loose from the other end. Australia’s batsmen attacked SA’s spinners at one end. It was a fruitful tactic. Graeme Smith couldn’t tie up an end. He couldn’t rest his pacemen. He had to call on Steyn, Philander and Morkel to stem run flows rather than attack for wickets. All-out attack necessitates risk and a bowler like Watson can mitigate risk and relieve front-line pacers. But, Australia needs to stabilise its top order and Johnson, Harris, Siddle and Lyon are doing the job with the ball anyway.

Australia could drop Shaun Marsh for Watson, but Marsh scored 148 and 44. All-rounder Moises Henriques is also in the touring party. Perhaps Australia should develop him instead of reinstalling Watson. Cricket Australia should send one of these two home to play Shield cricket. No chance of both playing at once.

One comment

  1. Great post Frother, and an even better Poll! A very interesting Poll. By the end of the article of was sure that Watson shouldn’t come back in.

    Firstly, how could Marsh or Doolan be dropped after what they contributed? Marsh is in fine form and currently justifying his selection while Doolan looked the most comfortable debutant batting since Ashton Agar! I personally really liked how Doolan was batting and felt that if it wasn’t for that great catch in the first innings he would have had at least two half-centuries to his name from his first Test. Surely Watson wouldn’t replace him.

    Secondly, Watson isn’t even 100% fit so it’s just too early to be speculating. Rest him this series and let Doolan and Marsh prove themselves if they can.

    If it wasn’t for your Poll that would have been my final say. But you went and added the option of Watson for Rogers, which is a selection consideration that I’m ashamed to have overlooked. Personally I’m not a fan of Rogers and I’m going to try and not let that impact my consideration of this, but has be really done enough in recent times to justify his opening position? I’m not saying that Watson should replace him, I do think Rogers should see the series out, but if Watson was needed in the side then surely Rogers is the logical choice. An inform Warner being supported by an inform Watson is the opening combination we’ve all been wanting.

    I find it funny that on the back of a remarkable white-wash 5 Test series win with an unchanged line-up we’re already speculating on selection issues. At least this time we’re talking about problems like dropping inform batsmen for inform batsmen or who is performing best at which position rather than who can stop the rot and save Australian batting.

    I look forward to the end of a successful series against SA where we can sit down and revisit this thread to discuss the virtues of our top 3 with Watson, Warner, Marsh, Doolan and Rogers all viable candidates. There are some amazing batting combinations there and if they’re all firing then it’s exciting times ahead.

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