Doolan tipped for Test debut

ALEX Doolan is in the box seat to replace fellow Launcestonian George Bailey in the Test team after batting at No. 3 in Australia's first centre-wicket practice in South Africa.

Doolan is the favourite to fill the void left by his Tasmanian captain and make his Test debut against South Africa on February 12, but the speculation in Potchefstroom is that he could slot in at his familiar first drop spot and push Shane Watson down the order. 

In an intra-squad practice session on Sunday, the 28-year-old, who averaged 39 during the Sheffield Shield season, came out to bat after openers David Warner and Chris Rogers.

Asked if he read anything into that, Doolan said: ``I certainly don't. I don't know if anyone else does.

``It's just a centre-wicket (session) and everyone's batted in different spots.'' 

Australian captain Michael Clarke suggested before departure to South Africa that Watson wanted to stay at No. 3 and would most likely be granted his wish. 

However, the all-rounder's bowling responsibilities are likely to increase in the seaming South African conditions where he was dynamic with the ball in the 2011 Cape Town Test. 

Doolan is competing with Phil Hughes and Moises Henriques for the first Test, but would appear the front-runner given the others were late inclusions to the squad. 

Australia had a chance to blow out some cobwebs on Sunday, after rain had hampered training time since touching down in the rainbow nation. 

Doolan, who made an unbeaten 161 against South Africa at the SCG in 2012, said he's yet to feel the pressure of a looming confrontation with the world's No. 1 Test nation.

``I toured here during the last off-season with the Australia A team so it's good to reacquaint myself with the South African conditions,'' he said. 

``They were pretty similar to Australia, I thought - fast and bouncy and seemed to carry on to the bat nicely. 

``I feel like I'm going really well, it feels like I'm in a good rhythm, I'm hitting the ball nicely and hopefully I can just carry that on to the tour match that we've got here, and who knows from there.'' 

Coach Darren Lehmann will take in the four-day match against a South African Invitational XI in Potchefstroom, which starts tomorrow, and assess conditions in Centurion before deciding between Doolan and former opener Hughes, dropped four times in a stop-start Test career and back in the country where he dazzled on debut in 2009. 

Lehmann acknowledged Watson would be bowling ``a lot of overs'' in South Africa.

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