Australia leave door open for Shane Watson's return against Sri Lanka
Sydney, March 7 - Australia left the door ajar on Saturday for all-rounder Shane Watson for their crucial World Cup Pool A match against Sri Lanka here on Sunday, only four days after his shock axing.
Watson, 33, paid the price for unconvincing form with the bat when he was left out of the team that thrashed Afghanistan by a record World Cup margin in Perth. Also, national selector Rod Marsh left no doubt that he had been dropped and not rested, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
However, changes to the line-up were not ruled out, with coach and selector Darren Lehmann indicating Watson was under consideration for Sunday's game. Captain Michael Clarke offered hope to Xavier Doherty by forecasting spin to play a major role against Sri Lanka.
"There is a chance all of the 14 apart from (Pat) Cummins can play, so we'll have to wait and see how the wicket comes up here. It's been traditionally a really good wicket here so hopefully it's the same," Lehmann said.
Fellow all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who was preferred to Watson when James Faulkner returned to the side in Perth, trained well on Saturday after a foot complaint at the WACA.
Watson was the last player to leave training at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Saturday, hanging around in the nets even longer than Clarke.
"He's fantastic for the team. He's been fantastic last week after the news of not playing, he was great around the group," Lehmann said.
"He works extremely hard. He helps all the young blokes out which is what we want from the senior players. I've been really pleased with him and George Bailey, the way they've taken the news of not playing and are helping the group out."
If Marsh was to somehow miss out on Sunday, it won't be due to fitness, according to Clarke.
"I think he had some foot pain [in Perth] ... he told me on the field it was his boot so I assumed it was something to do with the foot," Clarke said.
"But as you've seen today he's batted, he's bowled, done his fielding. I asked him how he was feeling when I walked off from my first bat and he said, 'I'm flying, I'm ready to go'."
Meanwhile, the prospects of left-armer Doherty featuring for the first time in the tournament were also elevated by Clarke's report of the pitch prepared by curator Tom Parker.
"It looks like spin is going to play a part. It looks quite dry and certainly hasn't got as much grass on it as I've seen in past one-day matches at the SCG," Clarke said.
Sunday's game is effectively a play-off for second spot in Pool A behind likely group winners New Zealand.