In Australia’s tilt at No.1 rank, Watson return a boost

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SummaryAustralia’s Shane Watson has declared himself fit for both batting and bowling duties in the third and final Test against South Africa beginning in Perth

Australia’s Shane Watson has declared himself fit for both batting and bowling duties in the third and final Test against South Africa beginning in Perth on Friday.

The all-rounder missed the first two drawn Tests of the series in Brisbane and Adelaide with a calf injury but was named in the squad for the final match.

“Over the last week I have gradually built up my bowling and my running,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I am up to bowling as many overs as Michael (Clarke) wants, the normal workload I have in a Test.”

The 31-year-old was deemed fit to play as a specialist batsman in the second Test but Australia opted to give him a chance to regain full fitness.

“The decision to miss the last Test was a good one in hindsight because it gave me the best chance to bowl well here,” he said. “I understand (bowling a lot of overs) could be a possibility for me ... but in the end my body is in the condition to do it. I’m certainly fresh compared to some of the other guys who have been out there, so my body should be right.”

Australia need a victory at the WACA to return to the No.1 spot after a gap of more than three years, while a third draw would keep South Africa as the world’s top side in the longest form of the game. “Both teams will be pretty battered and bruised (but) we’re level pegging going into Perth,” South Africa skipper Graeme Smith said. “For us, that is great ... We wanted to go to Perth in that position and give ourselves a chance of winning a series in Australia again, and we have that opportunity.”

Smith will be hoping that paceman Vernon Philander is fit to rejoin his strike bowling unit after a lower back injury ruled him out of the second Test.

After a sensational introduction to Test cricket, Philander failed to take a wicket for the first time in the drawn series-opener in Brisbane. His return would, however, allow South Africa to select a four-pronged pace attack with Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Rory Kleinveldt all looking to fire on what is expected to be a lively track.

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