Watson keen to keep career alive with Ashes selection

THE first shots will be fired in the battle for the Ashes against England at Nottingham's Trent Bridge on July 10.

And Shane Watson no doubt hopes his decision to step down as vice-captain will help him be a major contributor in Australia's bid to win back the famous urn.

Watson, who was appointed to the role in March 2011, has struggled for form in the Test arena, not scoring a century since his 126 against India in Mohali in October 2010.

The 31-year-old all-rounder averaged only 16.5 with the bat during the recent series against India, which saw Australia whitewashed 4-0.

Chairman of selectors John Inverarity said Watson remained an important senior member of the team and should be commended for making the tough call to step down to focus on playing.

Watson was back bowling for the first time this year on Sunday, taking two for 11 for the Rajasthan Royals in the seven-wicket loss against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.

He failed with the bat again though, making just six.

Cricket Australia has not set a date for the announcement of the Ashes squad.