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Good nick ... Rob Quiney on his way to 85 during Australia A’s first innings on Friday. The Victorian also impressed selectors in the second innings by fending off a rampant Dale Steyn. Photo: Getty Images

VICTORIA’S Rob Quiney is set for a  Test debut against South Africa on Friday after being called into the Australia squad as cover for the injured Shane Watson.

The 30-year-old made an impressive 85 for Australia A against South Africa at the SCG and is  on the verge of an international breakthrough, with Watson considered highly unlikely to fully recover from a calf strain for the first Test. Quiney, a widely respected and popular opening batsman at the Bushrangers, sealed the deal by successfully resisting a fiery onslaught of fast bowling from the Proteas’ top-rated speedster Dale Steyn on Sunday.

‘‘It’s a massive opportunity to join the squad heading into such an important series,’’ Quiney said on Sunday. ‘‘Hopefully Shane can get up and be right because he’s such an important player for the team but I’ll obviously be training and preparing to be ready to go if he doesn’t get up.

International breakthrough ... Victoria's Rob Quiney.

International breakthrough ... Victoria's Rob Quiney. Photo: AFP

‘‘It was really good to bat against them [South Africa’s fast bowlers]. To see Steyn crank it up today, it’s good to have a little taste of it. I think I’ve been fairly consistent in the last 18-24 months – not such a great start in the Shield stuff for me this year, but it’s an opportunity and it comes through timing. If it does eventuate I’m hoping to soak it up.’’

Quiney will become Australia’s 429th Test player if Watson is ruled out, a well-deserved climax for a player who was not even rated good enough to make the Australia A tour of England in the winter but who has clearly impressed selectors. While he opens for Victoria, he would likely slot in at No.3 as a direct replacement for Watson, who on Sunday was  all but resigned to sitting out the Test.

The five-man selection panel opted for a specialist batsman to slot in for the all-rounder, a reflection of their admiration for Quiney but a move that  leaves Michael Clarke’s team  limited for  bowling options.

Should they choose three fast bowlers in their final XI, and give a start to spinner Nathan Lyon, the absence of Watson will leave them more exposed given the all-rounder’s ability to value-add to the bowling line-up.

Selectors resisted the opportunity to recall Phillip Hughes to the national set-up as back-up for Watson, while other candidates such as Tasmania’s Alex Doolan, who made a superb hundred against South Africa, and state captain George Bailey, were also overlooked.

National selector John Inverarity said a final decision on Watson would be made ‘‘earlier rather than later’’, indicating  the vice-captain could be scratched from the first Test as early as Monday, when scan results will become available.

‘‘Rob Quiney has impressed the NSP [national selection panel] with his performances in all formats in recent years. He was particularly impressive in the Australia A game that concluded at the SCG today,’’ Inverarity said on Sunday night.  ‘‘His 85 from 113 balls against the strong South African attack demonstrated a good range of shots and a sound technique. He is in good shape at the moment and he is ready to grasp his opportunity should he get the nod for Friday.

‘‘Rob is a mature player with an equable temperament who has been on the verge of higher honours for some time and I note his achievements for Victoria were recognised last year when he was named state player of the year at the Allan Border Medal evening.’’

Quiney  has made a statement in recent seasons with  consistent displays in all formats of the game. A late bloomer, the left-hander averages 37.7 in a first-class career which  began only in 2007.