Australia’s greatest Ashes fear was revealed in Saturday’s shattering 57-run defeat to India, with Shane Watson sustaining a hamstring injury.
The key allrounder was hobbled while bowling as India racked up an enormous 6-383 in Bangalore en route to a victory that secured them a 3-2 series win.
Watson will arrive in Australia on Monday morning for scans to reveal the extent of the damage but – given his history with injury – must be in serious doubt to line up for the opening Test at the Gabba in 18 days time.
India’s total was built around man-of-the-series Rohit Sharma’s astonishing 209, the second-highest individual ODI score of all time.
Australia’s gallant run chase was sparked by the most unlikely of centuries to James Faulkner and a 115-run 10th wicket partnership with Clint McKay (18).
The Australians were never realistically in the chase, despite explosive cameos from Glenn Maxwell (60 off 22) and Watson (49 off 22), until Faulkner reprised his Mohali heroics.
In that match he thumped 30 off one Ishant Sharma over in a match-winning 64 off 29.
On Saturday, he clubbed six sixes and 11 fours in a blistering 73-ball 116 but couldn’t get his side across the line.
He reached three figures from just 57 balls, making it the fastest ODI century by an Australian – bettering Matt Hayden’s 66-ball effort against South Africa in 2007.
In a series of numerous batting records and extraordinary feats, this was arguably the most unbelievable.
“It was extraordinary,” Bailey said.
“The whole series has been extraordinary.”
But of great concern is the status of their fragile allrounder who succumbed to the injury after pulling out of his delivery stride at the start of his sixth over.
He returned for a brutal cameo as Australia were bowled out for 326, but his availability for the Gabba Test is surely in doubt.
Selectors may be heartened that he was able to bat at all, but he did so in obvious pain throughout his 22-ball innings.
“He’s obviously sore. We saw that,” Bailey said.
“But we won’t know anything until he gets home and gets a proper scan looked at.”
Among other recurring ailments, Watson definitely has a history of hamstring injuries which have forced him to miss serious chunks of his career, including the 2006-7 Ashes series.
Making matters worse, Australia had sent fast bowler Mitchell Johnson home on Thursday in order to give him the best preparation possible for the Ashes.
Johnson, Australia’s leading wicket-taker in the series, was sorely missed in the deciding match as India blasted the second-highest score against Australia’s toothless attack.
Watson has played an incredible amount of cricket and has been touring for the past seven months, playing eight Tests, 14 ODIs, the Twenty20 internationals and 22 T20 games for the Rajasthan Royals.
But Bailey defended the decision to play their prized asset through until the final match.
“I think that’s a really hard one. I’m not sure you can predict injuries,” he said.
“I think if you asked Shane this morning he would’ve said he was fine.”
Sharma’s incredible 158-ball innings included 16 sixes and a dozen fours, and he was the beneficiary of a very costly drop by replacement fielder Moises Henriques when on 120.
He put on 112 for the opening wicket with Shikhar Dhawan (60) and a further 167 with MS Dhoni (62 off 38).
Dhoni, who hit one six out of the stadium, was also dropped – by Maxwell when on 29.
The pair helped India pile on a staggering 151 runs in the final ten overs.
Xavier Doherty was the pick of the Australian bowlers, taking 2-74 while quicks Clint McKay (1-89) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (0-80) bore the bulk of the punishment.
On the other side, recalled paceman Vinay Kumar became just the fifth bowler, and the first Indian, to concede 100 runs in an ODI – finishing with 1-102 from nine overs.