Watson should be dropped for the Fifth Test

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Australia's Shane Watson, will he get picked for the second Test? (AFP Photo/Paul Ellis)

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The fifth Test starts tomorrow. It is Australia’s last chance to salvage something better than a draw in this series.

Surely, the 3-0 score may flatter England a little bit at the moment, considering they got out of gaol in the third Test, and just got over the line in the first, but there is no denying that at key times, Australia have been comprehensively outplayed.

The final Test should be the perfect occasion for Australia to pick its XI that it ideally would want England to play against in Brisbane.

It’s a dead Test at The Oval. There’s no pressure on the Australians; the XI should treat this match as a chance to iron out a few Everest sized wrinkles and lay the foundations for the return series.

In my hypothetical and perfect world, I would drop Shane Watson for the fifth Test.

I’d drop Shane Watson not just because of his form, but because he is an injury risk. He limped off in the fourth Test, and despite his claims that he is fit again, he is clearly too much of a liability to warrant a spot in the team.

In regards to his form, Shane Watson persists in the team only because of the team management’s belief that he will win matches.

He has played seven Tests this year, and not even one innings by him with the bat or ball could be considered match-winning. This is namely due to the fact that Australia haven’t won any matches, but also because one single fifty in 2013 hardly screams, “I can win matches for you, pick me! PICK ME!”

His tight bowling, while effective, is not match-winning. The four other bowlers have demonstrated that they can take wickets without him.

He is an all-rounder who has all-round mediocre abilities at the moment.

It’s time to cut him loose before another summer begins where he is either injured and we all bafflingly crave for his ‘talents’ to come to the fore, or he plays and continually under-performs, as empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests he will.

Thanks for playing Shane.

Keep Usman Khawaja.

It’s a nothing Test, and only pride is on the line. Give the man a chance to play without the added burdens of saving a series. If he still can’t deliver, then let him go. But I back him to deliver this time, with far less pressure on his shoulders.

So, who would replace Watson and form the third layer of foundation? My suggestion: Simon Katich.

The man is in form, and Australia desperately need some added experience at the top. He could come in as an opener, with Rogers dropping down to three.

Smith and Khawaja can then build some time and confidence down at number five or six where they really belong at the moment. The added bonus of Katich is that he will fill the experience void left by Watson, and has a proven track record of success.

There is no space for Phil Hughes in this team. Talent and experience leave no space for him. It is patently clear that Hughes, Khawaja and Smith cannot be in the same team together. But I won’t close the door on his career just yet.

Realistically, we could expect no more than two seasons of usefulness by either Katich or Rogers, and that isn’t a problem. Hopefully by January 2015, Hughes or someone else in the Shield will be experienced enough and technically sound and ready to step up to Test cricket.

This is a perfectly reasonably expectation to have. Should Hughes be ready (at last), then Katich/Rogers can vacate their spot in the side.

Michael Clarke should remain in the team, of course. But friends, we need to stop expecting him to churn out centuries. Purple patches won’t last forever.

There’s no need for an all-rounder in the side. Australia rarely wins with an all-rounder in the team (see 2013 results as evidence!). Six batsmen, a keeper and four bowlers is the right combination.

Brad Haddin should remain the keeper for now. Matthew Wade is just not up to Test match scratch. I would see how Tim Paine goes in the Shield before the first Test.

Ryan Harris must play the fifth Test and then be rested from any ODI commitments between now and the first Test in Brisbane. Six Shield games are being played before the Brisbane Test. Harris should play three of them to stay Test-match fit.

Nathan Lyon remains as the lone spinner in the side. He will be very useful in Brisbane and has the added advantage of being able to take more than two wickets (see Ashton Agar).

Peter Siddle, James Pattinson (when he gets fit), Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird should be involved in a healthy competition for the final two spots. This is one of the rare shining moments for the Australian team, the rich stocks of capable fast bowlers.

This XI, I think has a healthy mixture of experience, youngsters and good bowlers, and can reinvent itself as a transition team by letting players like Hughes sort himself out in the Shield and permanently casting away unfulfilled potential that is Watson.

This XI won’t win every match, but it would be competitive and can hang on for just a few years so that there is a proper base to evenly introduce talent and regenerate a production line again.

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