Watson keeps himself in the mix

With a significant rest period between the fourth and fifth Ashes tests there was always going to be plenty of time to speculate about selection, and young Australian all-rounder Shane Watson has added to the selection issues with one of his best first class performances at the ideal moment. He struck an unbeaten 203 against Warwickshire in a crucial County Championship match, and followed it up with a pair of wickets and a couple of catches as Hampshire ran away for an innings victory.

Watson was picked for a single test early in 2005 against Pakistan, in an attempt to give Australia extra bowling flexibility with two spinners in the team. The plan was a success as both Shane Warne and Stuart Macgill bowled well, and Watson chipped in with handy contributions with both bat and ball.

Watson’s excellent innings and general good form in English domestic cricket raises the prospect of a similar selection in the crucial Ashes decider at The Oval, with the pitch expected to turn later in the match and Australia struggling to field an in-form and fit seam attack. MacGill will be given a chance to stake his claim in the final tour match against Essex.

Of course, this is not the only selection dilemma facing the two teams ahead of the final test. Injury concerns for both Glenn McGrath and Simon Jones are concerning the two camps, and both are involved in heavy recuperation to ensure fitness. Australia are also faced with concerns about their out of form batting lineup, with Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn both struggling for runs throughout the test series to date, and Shaun Tait and Michael Kasprowicz will be battling for the final seamers position should Stuart MacGill not be picked.

Recent selection history for Australia suggests the conservative option will be taken, but this Ashes series has thrown up so many surprises so far that a major selection shake-up before the final test would seem almost fitting.

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