Watson will open against South Africa, says Clarke

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The Independent Online

Australia captain Michael Clarke is adamant his deputy Shane Watson will open the batting in the Test series against South Africa, despite Watson's concession that his role in the team is changing.

Having bowled plenty of important overs for Australia in Sri Lanka, and seen his batting returns diminished as an indirect result, Watson is again toying with the concept of moving down the order, as he plays exclusively as a batsman for New South Wales in the Twenty20 Champions League in India.

However, Clarke has no intention of messing further with a batting order that underwent significant change in Sri Lanka, where Shaun Marsh staked a strong enough claim for the No 3 spot to push Ricky Ponting and Clarke down to Nos 4 and 5. "Right now I think he's best for the team opening the batting and that's certainly where he'll bat in South Africa," said Clarke.

Prior to the upheaval wrought by the Argus review, Watson and Phillip Hughes had been identified by the national selectors as Australia's preferred opening pair from now until the next Ashes series. Simon Katich was acrimoniously dumped in the process.

Hughes settled speculation about his place with a fine century in the third Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo. "When we left Sri Lanka he was excited he made some runs at the end of that tour and got another hundred for Australia which is fantastic," Clarke said. "He knows he's had some success over there [South Africa], so I think he's pretty excited to get over there and bat in those conditions again."

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