Michael Clarke backs Shane Watson to continue as No 3 batsman in South Africa

Last Updated: 29/01/14 3:58pm

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Shane Watson: Set to stay at No 3 in South Africa

Shane Watson: Set to stay at No 3 in South Africa

Sky Bet

Australia captain Michael Clarke wants Shane Watson to stay at No 3 in the batting line-up for their three-Test series with South Africa.

Watson averaged nearly 40 in the 5-0 Ashes victory over England, and Clarke feels he has finally proven himself after several indifferent series.

Alex Doolan or Shaun Marsh would be alternatives at No 3 but Clarke is happy for Watson to keep his spot.

Clarke said: "I know he wants to bat there, he loves that extra responsibility. I know we've got options in Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh, they could both bat at three and have done in their careers for their states and Shaun has batted at number three for Australia.

"But I think Watto's experience puts him in front and he's played pretty well for us to be honest.

"I know he's copped a little bit of criticism that he hasn't made as many runs as he would have liked in the first innings, but who has? We'd all like a few more runs, that's for sure.

"Right now I'm backing Watto to have a fantastic series and lead by example. He's played a lot of cricket and he's a senior member of our team and number three is an important role."

Clarke has a few injury concerns ahead of the tour, with batsman Marsh and paceman Jackson Bird struggling with calf and back injuries respectively and they are not flying out with the rest of the Test squad until they prove their fitness.

Clarke hopes that they are ready to go for the tour match in Potchefstroom on 5 February.

"Ideally I would (like them available for the tour match). I'd like them to be on this plane now but that's not realistic," he said.

"I think you've got to give them every opportunity. They're an important part of our squad. They're two very important players and I'm positive they'll both come up OK.

"Fingers crossed they'll both be on a plane sooner rather than later."

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