Kevin Pietersen goes in to bat for Shane Watson

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Shane Watson is finding support from the most unlikely of places as he clings on to his cherished position in Australia’s top order.

Kevin Pietersen was stunned at the level of scrutiny the all-rounder received this week, saying England would be relieved not to have to face Watson during the Ashes this winter if he was to be dropped. “I cannot believe I’m reading the paper & journalists are questioning whether Wato should be in the Aussie team! Ridiculous! He’s a machine! – Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) December 29, 2014 ,” tweeted Pietersen, who returned to Melbourne on Tuesday after spending Christmas in England. 

Credit where credit’s not due

Shane Warne is taking credit for Mitchell Starc’s strong start to BBL04, well sort of. After labelling Starc’s body language as “soft” during the second Test, Warne gave the left-hander a compliment, albeit a backhanded one.

“Be nice if Starc bowled in a Test match like he does with a white ball. Awesome to watch & aggressive, my pleasure for firing u up. #BBL04,” Warne tweeted.

Tasmania and Hobart Hurricanes batsman Michael Hill had a novel suggestion for how Starc and Warne could patch up their differences. “Wouldn’t mind seeing S. Warne face M. Starc at the moment. What are your thoughts guys? I think it could make for some interesting viewing,” Hill tweeted.

Twitter battlegound

Shaun Marsh was at the centre of an ugly Twitter row in which a current international player mocked a former ABC broadcaster about his mental health.

Netherlands and former Western Australia batsman Michael Swart unleashed a torrent of abuse at Glenn Mitchell, calling him a “weak prick”, “peanut” and “keyboard warrior” and telling him he should worry about his own health issues instead of criticising players.

Swart’s tirade started on December 20 when he took exception to a tweet where Mitchell said Marsh should not be described as a “tremendous player” due to his modest first-class average of 37.

“Hey glen. Ur still a keyboard warrior! Worry about ur own health issues instead of bagging blokes. karma,” Swart, who averages 28 at first-class level and 19 for the Netherlands, wrote on Twitter. “Love to see u say it to SOS face u keyboard warrior, sums u and your personality up #weakprick #nobody.”

Mitchell, who revealed in 2011 he was battling depression and had contemplated suicide, described the comments as a “cheap shot”.

Swart took aim at Mitchell again on Monday after Marsh posted his maiden Test half-century on home soil. “Put yourself on the pedastal [sic] Glenn then expect to be proven wrong. … That raise of the bat was all for you !”

He later accused Mitchell of “embarrassing himself” after the former commentator said it was not acceptable to make jibes about a person’s mental health given the suicide rates in Australia.

“Not ever did I say a word about mental health or suicide prevention, Glenn. Very poor angle by you,” Swart wrote.

Mitchell has been widely supported but has received enough negative comments for him to take a sabbatical from Twitter. “I spend my time trying to prevent suicide & mental health issues. The fact that the stigma exists with many saddens me. No comments for a while. Stay safe all & enjoy your sport,” Mitchell wrote.

SCG pitch on the move

The new date for the Sydney Test is not the only departure from tradition next week. The Test strip will not be the customary middle pitch, but has been moved one closer towards the members’ side.

The decision was made on Monday due to the better grass coverage on pitch six compared to the neighbouring pitch five. The Tonk has also heard the wear around where the centre circle is placed for the AFL season may also have played a part.

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