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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Watson set to win Ashes selection
S Watson
If Watson can get in there with both bat and ball that's the ideal scenario

Allan Border

Australia all-rounder Shane Watson is likely to bat at number six in the Ashes, says selector Allan Border.

Australia want to use five bowlers to provide back-up for ageing fast bowler Glenn McGrath and to allow strike bowler Brett Lee to be used in bursts.

Border says he was encouraged by Watson's form in this month's one-day tri-series in Malaysia.

He said: "Watson's the guy that we're looking at very closely. He's got the early running, there's no doubt."

In the DLF Cup in Malaysia, Watson claimed seven wickets and made a career-best 79 when used as an opening batsman against the West Indies.

Coach John Buchanan also said he was delighted with Watson's form.

He said: "Undoubtedly he's made some big strides in both departments, but I think his bowling (was) exceptional in this tournament.

"I think (the selectors) have made it pretty clear they want someone to be able to be selected as a batsman first.

"Then the bowling option provides them with flexibility to go with three quicks, one all-rounder and a spinner, or two quicks, one all-rounder and two spinners.

"So the work he's done on his bowling will certainly make the selectors sit up and smile."

And Border, one of four of those selectors on the panel, said: "It would be fantastic if we can unearth that quality of all-rounder other countries have had in recent times.

"If [Watson] can get in there with both bat and ball that's the ideal scenario. It makes the balance of the side a lot better."

Instead of Flintoff just focusing on his game, now he has to think about who's going to bowl next, what field placements to use

Glenn McGrath

"But that's not to say someone mightn't come out of the woodwork in the early [domestic] Sheffield Shield games.

Captain Ricky Ponting said he wants more bowling options than he did in last year's Ashes series, where McGrath missed two Tests through injury, and only four bowlers were used per Test.

He said: "We probably felt that at times we were a bowler down, or that it would have been nice to have someone else to go to with the ball through that series."

Watson has played just three Tests for a top score of 31 and two wickets at 61.50.

McGrath, meanwhile, has backed up Ricky Ponting's opinion that Andrew Flintoff could struggle when made to bear the extra burden of captaincy.

The 36-year-old veteran, with 542 wickets in 119 matches, said the England captaincy will drain Flintoff.

"Instead of Flintoff just focusing on his batting or his bowling and putting all his efforts and energies into that, now he has to think about who's going to bowl next, what field placements to use, where the game is going and so on," he said.

"It will take a lot out of him."

SEE ALSO
Flintoff considers two spinners
28 Sep 06 |  England
Lee focused on Flintoff rematch
26 Sep 06 |  Cricket


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