Calf injury ... Shane Watson is out of the first Test. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Shane Watson has been officially ruled out of the first Test against South Africa on Friday, clearing the way for Victoria's Rob Quiney to make his debut against the Proteas at the Gabba.
The Australia all-rounder and vice-captain has been in major doubt to play since Saturday, when he left the ground during the Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Queensland in Brisbane with calf soreness.
Quiney, a Victorian, is the reigning Domestic Player of the Year. His elevation was sealed with an innings of 85 for Australia A against most of the looming South African attack — the rested Morne Morkel was the exception — last week in Sydney.
Test debut ... Victoria's Rob Quiney. Photo: AFP
Selectors called in the 30-year-old on Sunday night as cover but he will be more than a back-up with Australia not willing to risk Watson in the first of three Tests against the world No.1 nation. Quiney will become Australia's 429th Test cricketer, a remarkable and belated achievement for a batsman who only graduated from Melbourne's club cricket grounds to the first-class arena in 2007.
His has been an unconventional ascension to the international game but selectors have been highly impressed by his consistent form in all formats of the game in recent seasons. Quiney was the domestic player of the season for 2011/12.
The left-hander is expected to bat in place of Watson at No.3, behind openers David Warner and Ed Cowan.
The absence of Watson will rob Australia of a legitimate seam-bowling alternative. While that seemingly could have strengthened the argument for an all-pace attack, Australia coach Mickey Arthur revealed off-spinner Nathan Lyon would almost certainly play. Therefore, right-armer Ben Hilfenhaus or left-armer Mitch Starc are likely to be 12th man.
Watson, absent from the entire Test summer last season due to a calf tear, will now set his sights on regaining fitness for the remaining two matches of the South Africa series in Adelaide and Perth.
with Jesse Hogan