Watson Makes It Australia's Day

Shane Watson's Test career-best made it Australia's day.
©Action Images / Andrew Boyers Livepic
Graeme Swann's wicket of Chris Rogers had briefly threatened to bring England back into the contest.
©Action Images / Paul Childs Livepic
Watson, though, was simply superb.
©Action Images / Andrew Boyers Livepic

Australia 307-4 (Watson 176) v
Fifth Ashes Test, The Oval

A powerful innings from Shane Watson gave Australia the better of the first day of the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval. Watson launched into the England attack, particularly that of their two debutants Simon Kerrigan and Chris Woakes, before being finally dismissed by the second new ball for 176.

Australia had begun the day by handing a debut to James Faulkner as one of two changes to their side to continue the rather random nature of their selections that has come to epitomise this tour. With Faulkner replacing the axed Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Starc returning to take the place of Jackson Bird, the tourists have now used 17 players over the five Test matches.

England, meanwhile, were expected to simply bring in Chris Tremlett to replace the injured Tim Bresnan, but instead surprised many by opting for a five-man attack, which included two spinners for the first time in a home Test since Cardiff 2009.

Their new attack was to have first use of a true Oval surface after Australian captain Michael Clarke had called correctly at the toss and had no hesitation in choosing to bat. Australia lost David Warner early to a leaden-footed drive at James Anderson, who looked back to somewhere near his best after a quiet couple of matches, but Watson dominated a second-wicket partnership with Chris Rogers.

The two batted for the remainder of the first session, with Watson reaching the break on 80 and Rogers scratching his way to 21. Watson took a liking to both Kerrigan and Woakes, with the former enduring a particularly chastening introduction to Test cricket.

It looked like a deliberate ploy on the part of Watson to target Kerrigan and he soon knocked him off his length, hitting six fours in his opening two overs, with the result that his confidence evaporated. What was most noticeable about Kerrigan’s bowling was the lack of revolutions that he got on the ball in comparison with Graeme Swann.

Another factor that was soon picked up on by those who regularly watch County Championship cricket was that he was operating at well below his usual and optimum pace. Kerrigan simply appeared overawed by the occasion and had stopped doing what he has done so well for the past three-and-a-half seasons. The result was a scattergun of deliveries that provided easy pickings for the Aussie batsman.

Woakes, on the other hand, recovered quite well from a poor start. His first five overs cost 30 runs, but he bounced back well to end with figures of none for 52 off 15. He almost had a maiden Test wicket late in the day, when Watson was struck on the pads by a ball that stayed low. However, Kumar Dharmasena’s decision was overturned as Australia, at last, used the DRS correctly.

Rogers had departed shortly after lunch, caught at slip off Swann, as England briefly threatened to undo Australia’s gains. Michael Clarke didn’t last too long and made just seven before being bowled via the pad by Anderson to make it 144 for three.

However, Watson found support from Steve Smith and the pair took the game away from the home side. They added 145 for the fourth wicket, with only a couple of brief alarms.

Watson was struck a painful blow on the side of the head by Stuart Broad, who was probably just about the pick of the England attack ahead of Anderson and bowled some fiery spells. He reached his first Ashes century off 114 balls, but was then dropped by Alastair Cook at slip in a move that would prove costly.

He then went on to pass his previous Test best before finally being dismissed by Broad with the second new ball to a brilliant catch from Kevin Pietersen on the deep square-leg boundary. Throughout his innings, he had displayed his characteristic strengths, with several handsome drives and savage pulls the features.

Smith, who reached stumps on 66 and had played the spinners particularly well by using his feet, was joined by night-watchman Peter Siddle following Watson’s departure and the pair took Australia through to the close to complete a thoroughly satisfactory day’s work.

© Cricket World 2013