Shane Watson’s Test future is on a knife edge after England’s bowlers dismissed the enigmatic allrounder lbw for the 29th time of his career in the opening Ashes Test in Cardiff.
Watson has only passed 50 twice in his last 16 innings and scored one century since his 176 against England at The Oval in 2013, and is under enormous pressure to keep his spot from Mitch Marsh.
A Mark Wood delivery that thumped into his front pad as he once again played around a swinging delivery was his undoing in the second innings for a less than convincing 19 – the fifth time he has been out lbw in both innings in 59 Tests.
His slow exit from the Swalec Stadium field after third umpire Chris Gaffaney upheld the decision was that of a man who knew the end was nigh after the tourists were crushed by 169 runs to a rejuvenated England.
Skipper Michael Clarke gave his tentative backing to the embattled Queenslander but chief selector Rod Marsh and coach Darren Lehmann could ring the changes to bolster a middle order that flopped in the Welsh capital.
Marsh clubbed centuries in warm-up games against Kent and Essex and was close to being selected in Cardiff but Watson’s bowling ability earned him the edge.
However, he was only used for 12 overs by Clarke, and former skipper Ricky Ponting said the selectors now face a real dilemma before the Lord’s Test next week.
“There’s a very big decision that needs to be made there,” Ponting said on Sky Sports.
“The fact Ryan Harris wasn’t here might have aided Shane Watson playing this game.
“Watson hasn’t bowled a lot in this Test.”
England captain Alastair Cook admitted it was a deliberate ploy by his bowlers to target Watson’s pads and they were always confident of getting him out.
“Like all players he has a weakness,” Cook said.
“But you can’t just go for the stumps. He’s too good a player for that.
“It’s not just about going gun barrel straight, but you know if you put the ball on or around off stump you might get the outside edge as well.”