Australia v South Africa, 2012-13 October 29, 2012

Watson steps up quest for hundreds


Merely by being fit for its commencement, Shane Watson has already achieved something this season. Entrenched as Australia's No. 3 Test batsman, he is now intent on going on to compile the sorts of scores that will win matches, instead of racking up the kinds of handy five-day tallies that have characterised his career to this point.

Last summer's injuries and frustrations caused Cricket Australia to concoct the most specialised plan for an Australian cricketer yet devised in order to ensure Watson would be close to the peak of fitness and form for the home Tests. He was rested from an ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE, then ordered home early from the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa.

These rest periods have allowed Watson time to refresh, but also to re-focus, acknowledging that this summer will be an unfulfilled one unless he can maintain his muscular technique for long enough to peel off a century or three. To date he has only two Test centuries, as against 18 50s, in his 35 Tests.

"That's the thing I've been really looking deep inside myself to be able to find the reasons why I haven't been able to convert those decent days into those really big and good days," Watson said. "And they are the innings that do really influence a game. It's certainly something I'm very conscious of and I'm doing everything I can to hopefully have that breakthrough innings to know how to replicate that.

"I'm very much looking forward to the Test cricket coming up. To miss the summer last year and only play a few Tests in the West Indies, I certainly have the excitement inside me to want to play Test cricket. It's the ultimate challenge for a cricketer. There are a few things I certainly want to improve in my Test cricket especially. This is a good opportunity with the amount of cricket coming up and also the quality of opposition to test out where I'm at."

Watson's fitness is a more complicated matter than whether he is nursing any muscle strains or not. Having played a surfeit of T20 lately, he is in training to regain the kind of stamina and thinking required for Tests, and a looming Sheffield Shield fixture against Queensland at Allan Border Field will be critical to how ready Watson will be for the Gabba match.

"Over the next couple of weeks the conditioning part of things is going to be very important. Unless you're out there playing you can't replicate anything like what it's going to be physically being out there on your feet in a battle for five days," Watson said. "That's certainly going to take a bit of time to get my body adjusted to it.

"Mentally that's one of the reasons why I came home [from CLT20]. To be able to reset my batting especially to get rid of a few of the little things that creep in when you're playing the shorter form of the game."

One of the curious things about Watson's failure to be a consistent century maker in Tests is that it is not as though he has never done it. In the 2010 Mohali Test against India, Watson batted more than six hours to anchor Australia's innings, while in first-class matches his 100s to 50s ratio is far more satisfactory, with 17 centuries and 42 half-centuries. He has a double century to his credit in a Sheffield Shield final also.

"[Mohali] was over six hours, and that's a thing I know in Shield cricket in the times when I've scored those big runs in the level below, it has been when I've batted for really long periods of time," Watson said. "So it's about finding that balance to be able to not have a defensive mindset when you're out there, just thinking about batting time.

"That's the only thing that really you're getting balance between, making sure you're putting the bowlers under pressure the whole time you're out there, that they can't just settle into limiting your scoring, but also do it for really long periods of time. A lot of it comes down to being able to replicate your technique, so its the concentration side of things and making sure technique is as good as it can be as well."

To that end, Watson's shift from opening to No. 3 has helped him by providing a slightly wider window to adjust from the demands of bowling to those of batting at the top of the order. Rather than jogging off at the change of innings only to walk straight back out as an opener, Watson now has time at least for a shower, a pause and reset of his goals, even if the opening stand lasts for only a ball or two. While he did not make a tall score when moving into the position in the West Indies, Watson enjoyed the extra time to change gears.

"It's certainly a big change, and I think in the end from what I found in the West Indies a good change in a way, because it meant it gave me a bit of time to even mentally reset," he said. "If I've had to bowl and I've come off straight away and had to get my pads on and get out to face the first ball, you don't really have a time to reset your mind really.

"That's where in the West Indies I found it a nice time to mentally reset, let alone the physical side of things to recover, even if it is just for one ball or one or two overs. I did enjoy that compared to opening the batting."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Christopher on October 31, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    For as long as Watson has batted in the top order,I have identified what I believe to be behind his failure to convert. The overwhelming anecdotal evidence suggests that his muscular physique fatigues far quicker than might otherwise be the case. The evidence is in the pattern of his innings. He is considered an attacking batsman. Yet his S/R in Test cricket is barely 50 runs per hundred balls or 1 run ahead of Katich. The impression is created by him racing to 30, slowing from 30-50 and being out in that general vicinity. If he starts a session, he generally loses his wicket in the last half an hour. I've said for some time that I would like to see more work done by the sports medicine guys on his electrolytes. When you have a player whose batting looks well constructed and his game plans equally well considered, that only leaves physical/concentration as the weak link. Even his two hundreds required multiple dropped catches. I urge him to greatly increase his electrolyte intake.

  • Dummy4 on October 30, 2012, 16:52 GMT

    This is a very interesting series and even as an Aussie I still cannot see Australian even winning this series against this phenomenal team even though we're at home. SA away record is mind boogling...

  • david on October 30, 2012, 16:35 GMT

    kensohatter some could say the same about you, as your name does not bring to mind previous postings. as for my posting on a aussie thread i like to say im pretty honest to my opinions on most cricinfo topics and give fair do's were i think its due. as to englands been # 1 for a year, theres only one stand out side and its the saffars and think you will have to play out of your skins to win the series. but if you do im honest enough to say that if you win and go #1 it will be less than a year, but thats only my opinion base on watching test cricket for close to 50 year.

  • Scott on October 30, 2012, 13:16 GMT

    @Selassie-I, yes, that's one of the 2 openers required -who is the other one???? Didn't really think that through, did you... PS, Take a look at the rest of Cook's Ashes history - makes for sorry reading...

  • Dummy4 on October 30, 2012, 10:24 GMT

    best again SA


  • Noor on October 30, 2012, 10:20 GMT

    @I-Like-Cricket, I admit, I hadn't considered that innings, mainly because I didn't watch it, sadly. While the scorecard does tell us that it was on a treacherous track (with only Warner's innings the exception), I have to marginally rate his half century in the last test in the Windies higher. It was a test match overseas, which automatically rate it higher than a game at home. It was on a type of pitch he wouldn't be familiar with. The T20 tracks of the IPL wouldn't compare with that test match pitch. Finally, he played that innings with a miserable strike rate of less than 37. You can't get more out of character if you're Dave Warner. Even Cowan's half century in the second innings of that test was at a greater clip. That is half his strike rate he had in his 123*.

  • Shihan on October 30, 2012, 9:53 GMT

    @kensohatter, i agree, but possibly Clarke at 3?

  • Peter on October 30, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    @Vivek Kadam - sorry to tell you, but you've named 12 players in your 11.

  • Kenso on October 30, 2012, 7:06 GMT

    In my opinion in prefer to see Watson at 6. Australia asks too much of him and he simply doesnt have the mental aptitude of a Kallis. Let him have time to recover after his bowling... He would probably get less injuries and would have a better chance of converting big scores rather than fatiguing. The issue is who to put at 3... For me id like to see Ponting there... With Clarke behind him at 4 and then Hussey, Watson and Wade. The advantage here is that you have Hussey and Watson potentially taking the second new ball and Clarke and Hussey able to use their feet to the spinners.

  • Kenso on October 30, 2012, 6:56 GMT

    I love how all the poms have come out of the woodwork behind a few wins! Its great to see but heres a small dose of reality... what have you really achieved? You held the no.1 test spot briefly, beat australia in australia (seriously a good win) but have you dominated anything? Do you have a win in a major tournament? Do you even have a player who would be considered legendary? The answer is no. You are already on the decline and your day in the sun will be again over. In contrast Australia have at least dominated the last decade. Won multiple world cups, broken the consecutive test win record and produced at least 3 players that would walk into a best of all time world XI (Warne, Mcgrath, Gilchrist) and then a further 4 who would push for selection. (Waugh, Hayden, Langer, Ponting.

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