Australia have suffered a massive injury blow
Schedule: The tour of Zimbabwe
Allrounder Shane Watson has been ruled out of the Tour of Zimbabwe with a sprained ankle and will be replaced by batsman Phillip Hughes.
Training in Brisbane ahead of the squad’s departure to Africa on Wednesday, Watson stepped on a ball and sustained the injury, evoking memories of Glenn McGrath’s famous injury in the 2005 Ashes series.
"Shane today unfortunately sprained his right ankle at training, damaging an ankle ligament. His ankle is currently swollen and sore, but expected to recover with a period of rest," Australian Team Physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said.
"Due to the compact nature of the tour, we’ve made a decision that Shane would be unlikely to recover sufficiently in time for the series. He will return to Sydney in coming days to continue his recovery and be ready for the Tour of the UAE."
Many believe Hughes was unfortunate to miss selection when the touring party was named on August 4, but according to National Selection Panel chairman Rod Marsh the diminutive let-hander was an automatic replacement
"With Shane ruled out for the tour, the NSP clearly feels the natural player to come in is Phil Hughes," said Marsh.
"As I've said previously, Phil was unlucky not to be picked in the initial squad after showing some great form in the Australia A Series and was the natural choice to come in for Shane.
"The NSP is very happy with the bowling depth in the squad but Watson’s absence has meant another top order batsman is necessary."
Hughes was elated with the news, told in peculiar circumstances during the third day of the second four-day match against South Africa A in Townsville.
"Rod told me at the lunch break. It's a great feeling and I can't wait to join the boys," said Hughes.
“He mentioned Shane got injured which is disappointing for him.
“Injuries are never nice for anyone and obviously the time isn’t great (for Shane).
“I haven’t spoken to Shane yet, but personally I’m chuffed to get amongst it with the boys.”
Despite only one specialist opening batsman on the tour, Hughes doesn't know where in the order he'll bat, if at all.
"For me personally, I'm just happy to be on this tour. (The batting order) is definitely down to the selectors and Michael Clarke.
"I'm not even sure if I will play the first game."
Watson told cricket.com.au last week that it takes time to prepare his body for the rigours of international cricket, and was using the mini-camp at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane as a final tune-up before the tri-series, starting on August 25 against Zimbabwe in Harare.
"It normally takes me a little while anyway, normally only a week or two to be able to get my skills up and physically, bowling-wise, getting my body accustomed to doing what I want to do with it," Watson said.
"It normally takes me a couple of weeks but the great thing is we’ve got a couple of camps leading up to all the tours so there should be no excuse that you don’t hit the ground running."
Squad for Tour of Zimbabwe
Michael Clarke (c)
George Bailey (vc)
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 16 August, 2014 12:58PM AEST