Australia allrounder Watson picks up calf strain

Brisbane: All-rounder Shane Watson has picked up a minor calf strain ahead of Australia`s first cricket test against South Africa, which will prevent him from bowling in the series opener starting Friday.

Watson limped off the field today during New South Wales` Sheffield Shield match against Queensland and scans have shown that the 31-year-old strained a calf muscle.

Left-handed Victoria state opener Rob Quiney was later called into the Australian squad as a standby player and will make his test debut in Brisbane if Watson is not fit.

Quiney made scores of 85 and 11 not out while opening the batting for Australia A against South Africa in a three-day tour match that ended in Sydney on Sunday.

Australia`s selectors, including captain Michael Clarke, met to discuss options for Watson`s possible replacement and chose the 30-year-old Quiney ahead of his Australia A teammates Phil Hughes and Alex Doolan. Doolan made 161 not out in Australia A`s first innings against the Proteas.

"Rob Quiney has impressed the National Selection Panel with his performances in all formats in recent years," chairman of selectors John Inverarity said.

"He was particularly impressive in the Australia A game that concluded at the SCG today. His 85 from 113 balls against the strong South African attack demonstrated a good range of shots and a sound technique. He is in good shape at the moment and he is ready to grasp his opportunity should he get the nod for Friday."

The selectors decided not to name a possible replacement for veteran batsman Ricky Ponting, who has a hamstring strain. Ponting was unable to play for his Tasmania state side this week but is expected to be fit to play in Brisbane. Meanwhile, Quiney was due to join the Australian team on Sunday.

"It`s a massive opportunity to join the squad heading into such an important series," he said. "Hopefully Shane can get up and be right because he`s such an important player for the team but I`ll be ready to go if he doesn`t get up."

Clarke said it was possible Watson would play the first test at Brisbane`s Gabba ground as a specialist batsman, if his injury prevented him from bowling.

"He`s shown in all three forms he`s a very good batter, he`s a top player for us," Clarke said "Fingers crossed, I`d love to see him fully fit and batting and bowling. That would be a bonus."

Clarke added that Australia would find a way to beat South Africa, even without Watson.

"You look at our performance last summer. He didn`t play one test match and we beat India 4-0," Clarke said.

"We`ll find a way. We did last summer and if Watto`s not available somebody will come in and grab that opportunity. I`d love him to be fit but if he`s not we`ll find a way."


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