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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Watson's 176 gives Australia honours against England attack of uneven quality: T5, D1

Australia 4/307 (90ov, Watson 176/247b/1x6,25x4, Smith 66*/133b/1x6, 9x4) v England; T5/5 D1/5 at The Oval, London. Australia won toss and chose to bat.

But for Shane Watson answering his critics in the best possible way ( and from no 3 at that) Australia would be in a much less comfortable position than they are.

I was sceptical about the changes to the Australian team.  Mitchell Starc for Jackson Bird was fine, though James Faulkner, described by several  commentators as a bowling allrounder, for Usman Khawaja, the formervno3 was not easy to fathom. 

Yet Watson, after being tried as an opener and no6 in this series, stepped back to no3 and has made it his own with an innings of characteristic positive stroke play. The difference this time was that he batted on and on, struggling a little in the 90s, but eventually crossing the century threshold, and continuing from there. (In.another reversal of previous form the DRS reprieved him from another appallingly wrong lbw decision from Umpire Dharmasena).

England were two (or at best one and a half) bowlers short. Neither of their debutants, Chris Woakes  Simon Kerrigan, looked Test class, especially alongside the old stagers Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and especially Graeme Swann who had to bowl more than they'd have wished. Anderson returned to something near his best form though Swann, after Kerrigan's embarrassing Bryce McGain-like Test debut 8-0-58-0 (I reckon I'd have done better than him and I never bowled my left arm spin higher than Adelaide Turf and English village cricket) had to bowl more defensively.

So it was definitely Australia's day, but if Watson had been caught at slip off a hard but catchable chance, they would have been 4/151 and clearly frittering away the opportunity to build a score on a good wicket against bowling of widely varying quality.

For most of the day England kept themselves if not in, then not far out of the game. They did so by, Watson's let off excepted, taking a wicket just as it looked as if they were fading. Steve Smith has batted well in his fidgety-aggressive style, and he will need to shepherd the others to take even fuller advantage of batting first and England's shortcomings.

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