Australia are heading into the second Ashes Test in a state of upheaval and uncertainty that would have been unthinkable just two weeks ago.
Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was ruled out of the Lord’s clash on Tuesday for family reasons – the latest blow to a campaign already reeling from some big hits on and off the field.
It appears the selectors intend to axe under-performing allrounder Shane Watson for the match starting Thursday, when Australia will fight to level the series after copping a 169-run loss inside four days in the first Test in Cardiff.
That defeat came after paceman Ryan Harris, Australia’s best bowler in English conditions, was forced into retirement through injury suffered in the warm up match in Kent.
Fellow paceman Mitchell Starc, the bowler who most troubled England in Cardiff, needed pain-killing injections in his ankle to get through that clash.
He is expected to be passed fit for Lord’s but concern is sure to linger over how he well he can get through the second Test.
Peter Nevill will become Australia’s 33rd Test wicketkeeper, replacing Haddin who was a noticeable absentee from Australia’s training session at Lord’s on Tuesday, staying in the pavilion for the majority of the hit-out.
Nevill, 29, can be excused for being nervous, especially given the home of cricket will be the scene of his national debut.
However he is coming off his strongest Sheffield Shield season yet for NSW, having won the Steve Waugh Medal awarded to the state’s best player.
“His record back home speaks for itself, he’s had a couple of great years in first-class cricket,” said Peter Siddle, a former teammate of Nevill with Victoria.
“I played a lot with him as a youngster… I’ve got no doubt he will be ready to go.”
Fairfax Media reported 34-year-old Watson is to be dropped, making way for younger allrounder Mitchell Marsh and probably spelling the end of Watson’s 59-Test career.
“This is a big decision. My gut feeling is they’ll probably go with Mitchell Marsh,” Steve Waugh told Sky Sports prior to news of Watson’s omission.
“A guy at that age… when he’s played a long time, when you make a decision like this now – it’s pretty much final. There’s probably no way back from being dropped now.”
Watson fell to his weakness – lbw – in both innings of the first Test and was unable to impact the match greatly with the ball.