Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Melbourne, 1st day December 26, 2009

Getting hundreds is all mental

Shane Watson has conceded that Australia's failure to find a Test centurion this summer has started to creep into the minds of the players as they approach triple-figures. Watson, Simon Katich and Ricky Ponting all scored half-centuries on Boxing Day without going on to post hundreds, and after a similar problem in the West Indies series it took Australia's tally to 18 fifties and no centuries for the season.

Watson said his own dismissal in Melbourne - a terrible mix-up brought about his run-out - was not an example of the mental barrier but he had no doubt that the closer players came to a century the tougher it was becoming. The prime example was Katich, who on 98 got a leading edge that lobbed just out of the bowler Saeed Ajmal's reach, before he cut to point without adding another run. Over the past month Katich had posted scores of 92, 80 and 99.

"It definitely is a mental thing, I've got no doubt about that," Watson said of the team's failure to register a century. "I know that it's something that we talked about before Perth and I think even at times the more you talk about it the more it does come into your head when you get closer to that milestone.

"It's just something that we've got to continue to work through as a group. Of course in the perfect world hundreds would be very nice and I'd be the first one to take one, but it's just something I think we've got to continue to work together to try and not let it come into our mind as much as it might be at the moment."

Watson knows well the way the brain can stifle the body's natural reflexes, all because of a silly number. In Adelaide he let his overnight score of 96 affect the way he played the next morning. He has made 89, 93 and 96 during this summer's Tests, while Brad Haddin and Michael Hussey have both been out in the 80s, and Marcus North and Michael Clarke have fallen in the 70s.

"I think it really comes down to you as an individual," Watson said of the way to overcome the mental challenge. "The things I've learnt over the last couple of weeks about trying to clear your mind, I definitely got caught up in Adelaide and I played a false shot because I let my score dictate my thoughts. That's something that I've worked on over the last couple of games.

"You've got to do everything you possibly can to clear your mind and try and keep doing exactly what you're doing before. It definitely can make it difficult at times because hundreds mean so much to everyone. At times it can be difficult but that's the way you keep challenging yourself mentally."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo