Shane Watson’s hopes of playing a major role in the Ashes took a significant blow on Tuesday when he missed a second day’s training session in Brighton due to a knee injury. Australia were already pondering their 12-man team for the warm-up game against Sussex starting on Wednesday, but Watson’s inability to train on Monday and Tuesday now puts him in doubt for that game, leaving Australia’s selectors with another headache to ponder with the first Test just around the corner on July 8.

“I pulled up a little bit stiff from training yesterday so I sat out today’s training,” Watson told the Courier-Mail on Monday. “We are just monitoring things – that’s the way it has been with me for the last couple of years.”

Watson was supposed to play an integral part in Australia’s side for the 2006-07 Ashes but persistent hamstring problems meant he didn’t play a Test. His absence paved the way for Andrew Symonds to relaunch his Test career, a challenge he accepted with both hands, but Symonds’ star has faded significantly of late, with a string of behavioural problems prompting his axing. Now, it is Watson’s turn, so long as he can overcome this latest injury.

The 2006-07 series which Symonds missed began with a now-famous wide to second slip from Steve Harmison, who along with England’s former captain Michael Vaughan, was left out of their 16-man training squad ahead of the first Test.

Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting said it was no great revelation that the pair had missed the cut. “I’m not surprised that those two guys aren’t in it to tell you the truth, with the way their current group has been performing of late,” Ponting told AAP. “I think that squad pretty much picked itself.”

However, the Australians will face Harmison in their second tour match against the England Lions in Worcester. The England selectors have not ruled out adding players from outside the 16-man training squad before the first Test begins in Cardiff on July 8, so there is still the slim possibility Harmison could win back his Test spot.

“At his best we all know how good he can be,” Ponting said of Harmison. “At one stage there he was probably the best fast bowler in Test cricket in the world. To face guys who have played a bit of international cricket before, good preparation for us … you want to be facing the best bowlers, best opposition, you can before you go into a Test series.”

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