Australia v New Zealand, 1st Test, Brisbane November 17, 2008

Watson banks on form and weather


Shane Watson's 10 wickets in India, which drew praise from Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, could swing the selectors to retain him for a home-ground Test © Getty Images
 

Brisbane's stormy weather may allow the allrounders Shane Watson and Andrew Symonds to be squeezed into the same team with a fast-bowling heavy squad likely to be employed for Thursday's first Test against New Zealand. Fierce storms hit parts of the city on Sunday night, showers interrupted Australia's training on Monday and more rain is predicted during the week.

Steve Waugh has said Watson, who impressed during the 2-0 series loss in India, had developed enough to be used as a third fast bowler. However, if the Gabba offers a green surface a four-man pace attack would be both sensible and a way to fit all the main men back in. Symonds' return from suspension has added to the dilemma over whether to continue the development of Jason Krejza, who took 12 wickets on debut last week, or focus more on speed while using Symonds' part-time slow bowling.

"The way there would be two allrounders is if either a spinner or a quick missed out," Watson said. "I've got no idea which way the selectors are going to go. I've got no idea whether I'm going to play or not ... If it's overcast like this it definitely gives me an advantage because of the way I bowl."

In a boost for the side Brett Lee trained with the squad at Allan Border Field on Monday after recovering from a stomach illness that drained him during the fourth Test in Nagpur. Lee struggled in India, along with all the visiting fast bowlers, and the group was excited by the prospect of a moist, bouncy surface following two months of operating on lifeless pitches.

The 13-man squad will be trimmed by one on Tuesday, with Peter Siddle, the Victoria fast bowler who made his debut in India, the most likely to depart, unless the selectors quickly rule out spin as an option. Stuart Clark was dropped when Krejza came in alongside Cameron White in Nagpur, but he is desperate to return and his chances have improved with the decline in the weather.

"I'd love to," Clark said. "It was disappointing missing out in India but we're back in Australia now, back in conditions we're all familiar with and everyone is champing at the bit to get a game.

"These are the conditions that we've grown up with and these are the wickets we're used to playing on. We're keen to get out there and show the world we're a force to be reckoned with."

Watson has received praise for his performances in India, including from the captain Ricky Ponting, after he scored 170 runs and took 10 wickets in his first full series with the Test side. Symonds' off-field behaviour initially opened up a spot for Watson, but despite his desire to be included, the newcomer knows he may miss out if the senior man is preferred.

"I'd understand if I didn't get picked," Watson said. "I do know where I am in my cricket but I know exactly what Roy [Symonds] has done as well and what he's been able to achieve, especially in Test cricket, over the last couple of years. Either way it goes I'm very comfortable where I'm at."

Top Curve
Koertzen replaces Bucknor for the Tests
  • Rudi Koertzen has replaced Steve Bucknor as an umpire in the Tests between Australia and New Zealand after Bucknor failed to reach Australia in time for the series. Bucknor was travelling to Australia from Jamaica via USA where he missed his connecting flight and returned to Jamaica instead.
Bottom Curve

Watson now also understands the dangers and demands of trying to be successful with both disciplines. In 2005 he spoke with Andrew Flintoff about the balancing act and realised he would not be able to do everything perfectly all the time.

"[Flintoff] said that it doesn't really go that well with your batting and bowling," Watson said. "It's either your bowling's going really well or your batting's going really well. But when it comes together in one day or one game, you feel like you're just about invincible.

"Throughout that Test series in India I understood exactly what he's saying. Sometimes I was able to contribute with the bat, at the start of the tour especially, and then mentally had to make sure I was up for my bowling as well."

Watson posted his top score of 68 in the second Test and finished the series with four important wickets in the second innings in Nagpur, where his entry was delayed due to Australia's poor over rate. His contributions with the bat were not as strong as the contest concluded.

"With my bowling workload [I had to be able to] get as fresh as I could mentally, more than anything, to be able to continue with the bat, which I really didn't do in the past couple of Tests," he said. "It was a massive learning curve, especially on that aspect. It makes a lot of sense, what Freddy said."

It is a week since Australia finished the series in Nagpur and most of the squad has already been part of a Twenty20 game during the start of an exhausting summer. While some observers are struggling with the load, Watson is enjoying it.

"I think it's brilliant," he said. "The more I bowled over there and the back-to-back Tests, the better I felt bowling and playing. Obviously this week has been amazing, how fresh you can actually get in a week."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments