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Sep 18

Watson predicts tense Twenty20 series against South Africa

The absence of the main protagonists in the last Australia Test series win in South Africa this year, Michael Clarke and Dale Steyn, from the teams’ imminent Twenty20 series will not guarantee a resumption of warm relations, Shane Watson predicts.
Nanjing Night Net

Since the completion of that series in March all-rounder Watson has barely played for Australia, because of injury. While he has been training with the Australian Twenty20 squad in Adelaide since the weekend much of his evenings have been spent watching his usual Test teammates being pummelled in Abu Dhabi, a dual-team scenario he said “feels quite wrong, to be honest”.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this previously … to be able to be here with an Australian squad but still, on TV, watching the other Australian team plying its trade over in the UAE just seems very bizarre,” he said on Monday, before the start of Australia’s home international summer on Wednesday night at Adelaide Oval.

“Knowing there’s only a day or so between when the match finishes and we start here is interesting scheduling – but that’s the way the international schedule is now. Things are very jam-packed.”

Watson, 33, reckoned the result against Pakistan in the two-Test series could be an important lesson for the Australian team.

“After everything that we’ve done over the past 18 months to build it up [it is important to remember] things are never meant to go perfectly well,” he said.

“We had an incredible run in the Ashes here last summer and then South Africa as well … things pop up at times to give you a reality check when you need it. From afar, it certainly looks like it’s been a really big reality check for everyone.

“We’ve always grown out of situations that haven’t been ideal for us and we’ll certainly do that again.”

None of the Australian players in the UAE will return in time for Wednesday’s series opener, nor are they scheduled to play in any of the three matches. South Africa has chosen to rest arguably its six best players for the series – Steyn, captain Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander – for the subsequent one-day series and also its looming home summer. JP Duminy will be the Proteas’ acting T20 captain for the series.

Watson predicted there would be lingering animosity from the Test series, after which South Africa’s players were so aggrieved only Robin Peterson visited the Australian rooms to congratulate the visitors on their victory.

“The relations were a bit rocky, there’s no doubt. It was very hard-fought cricket from both sides,” he said of the three-Test series, which Australia unexpectedly won. “There’ll certainly be a lot of competition on the field, no question … and maybe a few scars floating around from that Test tour.

“South Africa don’t have a few of their really big Twenty20 stars but we’re missing a few of ours as well … but it’ll be a high-quality game of cricket, there’s no doubt.”

Wicketkeeper Ben Dunk will make his debut for Australia and batsman Nathan Reardon is also in contention to achieve that honour. For the Proteas Rilee Rossouw has only played one-dayers and Kagiso Rabada and Reeza Hendricks are yet to play in any format.

Watson, who was ruled out by selectors for the entire limited-overs and Test series against Pakistan because he was not able to bowl, returned to domestic cricket at the end of the recent Matador Cup. He said he was “the most [physically] well-prepared I have been for a long time” for a home summer.

“I’m very excited to be back playing again. It’s been my biggest break for a long time so I’m just very excited to be able to get back out there,” he said.

“It’s been five months of gradually building things up, with a few setbacks along the way.

“The past couple of weeks have come together really well, with getting back into playing and building up my bowling workloads as well.”

Watson said he was eager to return to Australia’s Test team, irrespective of where there was a vacancy in the batting line-up.

“Wherever Darren [Lehmann, coach] and Michael [Clarke, captain] want to me bat I just want an opportunity to be able to play again,” he said. “Hopefully I can score enough runs over the next month to give myself enough opportunity to be in the team.”

Watson also said he would be pleased to play alongside fellow all-rounder Mitch Marsh, whose batting has looked well suited to Tests.

SQUADS AUSTRALIA: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Cameron Boyce, Pat Cummins, Ben Cutting, Ben Dunk, James Faulkner, Nic Maddinson, Nathan Reardon, Kane Richardson, Shane Watson, Cameron White.SOUTH AFRICA: JP Duminy (c), Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Marchant de Lange, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, David Wiese.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.