Shane Watson will have to sit out the second Test. Photo: Getty Images
The dilemma of who to squeeze out of the Australian team to accommodate the return of Shane Watson seems certain to be delayed by at least a week, after the all-rounder failed to participate fully in the squad's first training session in Port Elizabeth ahead of Thursday's second Test.
After a rest and travel day since their 281-run thumping of South Africa in the first Test, the Australians trained at St George's Park for the first time on Tuesday morning. While the squad began with a brisk Australian-rules handball drill, and then various fielding drills, Watson was limited to the same routine he had during the first Test: walking laps of the arena, with team doctor Peter Brukner and physiotherapist Alex Kountouris.
Watson resumed batting in the Centurion Park indoor nets last week. His most compelling reason for selection would be if he could give Australia a fourth seam-bowling option. The complication to that occurring in time for the second Test, and possibly even next week's series-ending Test in Cape Town, is that typically after Watson sufficiently recovers from calf injuries to bat, he requires about an additional week until he can bowl again. Furthermore, Kountouris has said Watson would ideally be running unhindered for two or three days before a match to be in contention for selection.
"There is usually a bit of a lag [to bowling], because running [in the field] and running between the wickets is generally a bit easier than bowling. It'll be a four or five-day lag," Kountouris said earlier in the month, when the calf injury that Watson suffered just after arriving in South Africa was confirmed.
"Hopefully he gets to the point where he's able to train unrestricted by two or three days' out [from the Test], which is what we were planning to do here, and then being able to reproduce that two or three times and be confident he can get through a game."
While Watson did bat on Tuesday, his inability to participate in fielding drills all but discounts the already slim possibility of one of Australia's newcomers, Shaun Marsh or Alex Doolan, making way for him for the second Test.