- Australia in England 2012
Lee & Watson could be forced out of tour
Shane Watson and Brett Lee may be taking early leave from Australia's sobering tour of England after both suffered calf injuries in the tourists' eight-wicket loss to England at Durham. The left-armer Mitchell Starc, currently bowling well for Yorkshire, may yet be called up as cover for the final match at Old Trafford.
Watson could bowl only one over in England's innings before leaving the field, while Lee had bowled two balls of his second spell when he felt pain in his right leg and also headed to the treatment room, following an abortive attempt to bowl a third.
Watson and Lee are being assessed by Australia's physio Alex Kountouris and the team doctor John Orchard, with the results of MRI scans to be known as early as Sunday. Both are unlikely to take part in Manchester, leaving Lee stranded one wicket shy of Glenn McGrath's Australian ODI wicket-taking record. As he digested his first series defeat as Australia's Test or ODI captain, Michael Clarke confirmed the calf injuries, and that he had advised Lee to get his problem checked out before trying to bowl again.
"I haven't had time to speak to Alex yet, but I do know they've both got calf injuries - to what extent, I don't know," Clarke said. "I ran from slip to ask what it was about, and he said it was cramp. I just said at that stage, 'Go off, and find out if it is.' I haven't seen him since."
Though Australia had to cope with the most difficult of the conditions at Chester-le-Street having been sent in to bat after heavy overnight rain, Clarke would not offer any excuses for another comprehensive loss to England. The margin of defeat has only grown with each match in this series, reminding the tourists of how far they have to go to provide a serious challenge for the Ashes on English soil in 2013.
"I do believe England got the better of conditions, but it's easy to make excuses," Clarke said. "I think we had the better of conditions at Lord's as well, and England still found a way to beat us. That's what you have to do, against good opposition - in all different conditions around the world: you've got to find a way to have success. Unfortunately, once again today, we were outplayed.
"How far apart, are we? I don't know; you do everything you can to try to win every game, taking the field for Australia. Unfortunately, sometimes you lose; on this tour, we haven't seen the other side. But we've got one game to go, and I'd be very disappointed to go home without a win."
Australia's failure to make significant totals has been matched by their inability to make a dent in England's top order, an area Clarke noted with particular disappointment. As an aggressive captain searching for wickets, Clarke has not been short of ideas, but his bowlers have foundered on the rocks of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott.
"I'd like to see more of their batting order, that's for sure. We can't get through the top three or four at the moment," Clarke said. "We haven't taken wickets - Clint McKay's been really our only wicket-taker. I don't care what form of the game it is, you've got to get blokes out.
"If you want to slow the scoring you take wickets - that's always been my attitude in any form of the game. It's been very disappointing that we haven't been able to bowl England out. Credit to them - they've used the conditions better, [and] bowled very consistent areas to build up pressure."
As for the question of whether or not the defeat had added to the scar tissue Australia carry from their past two Ashes losses, Clarke hoped there would be few ramifications in 12 months' time. But he will not know for sure until the likes of James Pattinson, Matthew Wade and David Warner face England again.
"We've got a lot of guys involved in our Test squad who aren't involved in the one-dayers. Yes, the result hasn't gone our way on this tour so far," Clarke said. "But it's been a great opportunity for the players who haven't played much cricket in England to get here and see the conditions - especially for our young bowlers.
"It's been good for our batters who haven't had the chance to play against a really good English attack to see how good they are. We know we've got some work to do, in one-day cricket but also Test cricket before the next Ashes."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here