Melbourne:The Australian attack for the Sydney Test against South Africa depleted further with Shane Watson being ruled out of bowling for up to six months because of stress fractures in his back.
Pace spearhead Brett Lee has also been ruled out of action due to foot stress injury.
The Australian attack for the third and final Test, beginning January 3, could be one of the most inexperienced in its history, as pacemen Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson and spinner Nathan Hauritz have played only 22 Tests between them.
Watson, who was being considered a possible replacement for struggling Andrew Symonds, said the injury to his lower left-hand side of his back was sustained during a recent domestic game and had since troubled him.
Scans yesterday revealed the fractures. "I felt I'd made some really, really big inroads in to my game in being able to play consistently, and I suppose I was pushing myself to the edge, which is what I need to do to be able to achieve the things I want to achieve. Unfortunately it just tipped over the edge a little bit," Watson was quoted as saying in a media report on Tuesday.
"I think it's about four to six weeks of just rest, let the fracture heal, and then just start playing as a batsman. I am not exactly sure of the timeline for bowling but to be back to full bowling it probably going to be four to six months I think," Watson said.