x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Watson opening 'best for team' says captain Clarke

Michael Clarke confirms his vice-captain will open the batting in Australia's tour of South Africa later this month.

Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, has confirmed Shane Watson will continue to open the batting in South Africa, despite reports claiming the all-rounder was contemplating a move down the order to revive his form.

The rigour of opening for Australia and bowling regularly appears to have taken a toll on Watson's batting with the right-handed vice-captain managing just 85 runs in three Tests on placid pitches in last month's 1-0 series victory in Sri Lanka.

In a recent interview, Watson said moving down the batting order might reduce his workload and suit the side but his captain believes otherwise.

"My mind hasn't changed since Sri Lanka," Clarke told reporters in Sydney today. "Right now, I think he's best for the team opening the batting and that's certainly where he'll bat in South Africa."

Anthony Stuart, the New South Wales coach, has been quoted in the Indian media as saying they would not ask Watson to bowl in the ongoing Twenty20 Champions League tournament in southern India after receiving a request from Cricket Australia.

Australia will travel to South Africa to play two Twenty20 internationals, three one-day internationals and two Tests from October 13 to November 21.

Clarke said he was expecting a tough tour.

"Playing anybody on their home soil is always harder because you know your conditions so well but ... I'm confident if we're at our best, we can beat any team anywhere in the world.

"They have had a lot of success in their own country, so it's as tough a challenge as you face in world cricket, no doubt."