THE confusion over Shane Watson's participation in the second Test will receive some clarity on Monday when his fitness is gauged at Australia's first pre-match training session in Adelaide.
The vice-captain, who missed the drawn first Test due to a calf strain, was put through a running session in Brisbane on Saturday, passing with flying colours. However, he has yet to bowl since sustaining the injury in a Sheffield Shield game more than a fortnight ago, leaving him only three days to prove to the Australian hierarchy, chiefly the captain Michael Clarke, that he is not a risk over five days against South Africa.
Watson is expected to bowl in the Adelaide Oval nets on Monday in what is essentially a fitness test, although the likelihood is that a final decision on whether he returns for the Test, starting Thursday, won't be made until as late as Wednesday.
National selector John Inverarity made it clear on Friday, when he named Watson in a 13-man squad, that the all-rounder would need to be fit enough to handle the challenges of lengthy innings, with the bat and in the field, and not be in danger of breaking down mid-match.
Australia could use the balance he offers to Clarke's bowling line-up, which will include spinner Nathan Lyon and three fast bowlers - James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and probably Mitchell Starc in place of Ben Hilfenhaus - but the likelihood is that if Watson is not deemed fit to bowl, he won't be chosen at all.
That would leave Rob Quiney with a second opportunity to make his case at No. 3 after a debut at the Gabba where he made only nine but was utilised as a quasi all-rounder.
Watson's latest injury, while minor in contrast to previous setbacks, has unfortunately reinforced the perception that he is physically fragile.
The 31-year-old remains a highly valuable asset, however, in the eyes of Australian team management, even if their inclination is to leave him out in Adelaide.
''I believe everything is going OK,'' veteran Mike Hussey said on Sunday. ''I believe he's been running so that's positive.
''There is still three or four days before the Test match so I'm sure he'll be given every opportunity, being the vice-captain of our team, to prove his fitness to get ready for the second Test.
''I did speak to him very quickly in Brisbane and he was very keen to try and make sure he's right for this Test match. As John Inverarity said in one of his press conferences, even batting a long innings can take a lot out of the body. He's got to make sure he can get through that first and then hopefully he can offer something with the ball as well.''