Cricket: Watson shaping up well

Australia's Shane Watson. Photo / APN
Australia's Shane Watson. Photo / APN

A light run was all it took for Shane Watson's chances of bowling in the first Ashes test to gather pace.

Australia batting coach Michael Di Venuto said Watson would be given until the last minute to prove he could be used as an allrounder in the Gabba opener next week.

Watson cruised through the team's first training session in Brisbane, stretching out his troublesome hamstring in jogging drills before enjoying a lengthy net session with the bat.

Watson did not bowl, but Di Venuto was not concerned.

"That's part of the plan, it's a slow build-up for him. He's still a week away from the first test," he said of Watson. "It depends on how he feels [when he starts bowling again], simple as that.

"But he is a world-class batsman. If we have to we will just use him as that.

"We have options to go with whatever way we want, if we want to use a spinner or four quicks."

Di Venuto said Watson had walked away from the session with "no niggles".

"He was hitting the ball as well as he was in India so that was an encouraging sign," he said.

"Batting is not going to be an issue. He is pretty confident where he is at at the moment. As long as he can move and run around he will be good to go for the first test."

Asked if Watson would be given until the last minute to prove he could bowl in the first test, Di Venuto said: "Absolutely."

Di Venuto's stance on Watson being used as an allrounder in the first test may have been as relaxed as yesterday's training session.

But selectors will be sweating on Watson as they debate the merits of using four quicks as insurance for the recovering allrounder or opting for offspinner Nathan Lyon at the Gabba.

Watson impressed in the nets as test teammates Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson thundered in alongside recovering quicks Jackson Bird and James Pattinson (both back). Bird is hoping to be fit ahead of the second Ashes test while Pattinson is aiming for a return in the third match in Perth.

But Di Venuto was more impressed by Australia's top six batsmen, saying the lineup was the most settled it had been in years.

"It must be because most people picked the top six before it was named which is a great sign," he said.

"They have all scored runs in either Shield, [state] one-day cricket or the [ODI] series in India.

"They will all come into this series full of confidence."

Di Venuto was not concerned by the prospect of England's tall timber of Stuart Broad, Steve Finn, Chris Tremlett or Boyd Rankin dropping the ball short on a juicy Gabba deck.

Asked if he expected a bouncer barrage, Di Venuto said: "I hope so, if they want to. It's up to our batsmen to combat that and play the way they have been playing the last few months. Besides they can't pick them all."


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