Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Melbourne, 4th day

The rewards of resilience

Shane Watson has fought many struggles and his maiden century at the MCG will bring him enormous relief

Brydon Coverdale at the MCG

December 29, 2009

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

A special moment for Shane Watson, Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, Melbourne, 4th day, December 29, 2009
Shane Watson's maiden ton was the first for Australia this summer © Getty Images
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Shane Watson has spent most of the noughties straining under great expectations and a fragile body that couldn't shoulder the load. On the second-last day of Test cricket in the decade, Watson was finally unburdened and freed himself of all the disappointments and heartache that the past few years have brought him. He can now move on to greater things.

As Watson raised his bat to celebrate his maiden Test century, he looked relieved more than excited. In part that was because he'd just been dropped at point on 99 and scrambled a quick single to reach the milestone, enough to send any batsman's heart racing; but Watson's build-up to this moment spanned eight years, not just a few nervous deliveries.

Ever since he first stepped out for his national team in March 2002, Watson has been tipped as the next big thing and the expectations only grew when Andrew Flintoff's 2005 Ashes showed Australia the value of an allrounder. For most of his career, Watson has looked like an action figurine and been just as inflexible and liable to snap. But now that his body is holding together, the full extent of his talent is on display.

Chris Gayle said this month that Watson was soft. You can't overcome the hurdles Watson has if you're soft. His list of injuries includes problems with his back, shoulder, hamstring and calf, and they have kept him out of major moments like Australia's triumphant 2003 World Cup campaign and the 2006-07 Ashes whitewash.

And yet, after every strain, tear or break, he has remained upbeat about his future, confident he would return. If he lost his right arm in a freak accident you'd half expect him to start bowling with his left and declare he'd be back in the team within a year.

It's a resilience that makes him perfect for Test cricket. Following scores of 96, 89 and 93 this summer, his persistence was rewarded when he became the first Australian to reach triple-figures in a Test this season, after the team had managed 20 half-centuries. Having starred with twin hundreds in the Champions Trophy and firmly established himself as a one-day and Test opener, it capped off a fabulous period.

"The last six months have been for me my defining moment," Watson said. "The last six months have been something I've always dreamt of, being able to string so much cricket together throughout the Ashes, then the one-dayers and going on to the Champions Trophy and then on to India as well. For me leading up to the summer, that was a big accomplishment for me."

Despite the dropped chance on 99, he thoroughly deserved his century. Since Watson came into the Test line-up as an opener during the Ashes tour, he has been comfortably Australia's best batsman. He has scored 716 runs at 65.09, faced more balls than any of his team-mates and has more half-centuries to his name than any of his team-mates.

And all this from a makeshift opener. The selectors were criticised for thrusting Watson, a middle-order player at first-class level, into the opening position when they dropped Phillip Hughes before the Edgbaston Test. They've been proven correct. Had Hughes returned to the team at the MCG in place of an injured Ricky Ponting, Watson might not have even opened.

His technique is sound, he drives and pulls with force and discretion, and there's a hint of David Boon in the way he shuffles the bat in his hands at the bowler's release and then moves his body in behind the ball. A combination of 93 and 120 not out in his first Boxing Day Test, after his previous successes, means he must stay at the top of the order permanently.

The past decade has been full of hiccups, hurdles and hospital visits but Watson's resilience got him through. Now it's time for the rewards.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Posted by bigyoyo on (December 30, 2009, 13:06 GMT)

Firstly, Shane batted well no question. However I personally cannot stand him and want him to fail everytime he goes out there, this is not through jealousy it is simply due to his character. He always gets involved in confrontation with various players real intense sledging, I dont mind this and i myself enjoy it when playing it spurs me on. What i dislike is how it is never him and he is never involved the australian commentators never realise that these confrontations he has every game no matter who against are his doing. He and mitchell johnson regularly wind the opposition up and then get away with it! Why? They should be punished for continuous breach of the spirit of cricket. If it happened on occasions fair enough but every day, every innings of every game! what are the commentators and match referees watching to not realise!

Posted by jaztech on (December 30, 2009, 0:41 GMT)

It's great to see someone with the talent of Watson making mincemeat of the best bowlers Pakistan have. His superiority over the WI and Pakistani bowling attacks this summer has been a joy to watch. It's sad that there are still people out there who are so petty and ignorant that they think he doesn't deserve to be there. Or is it just jealousy?? Comments by the undignified Chris Gayle aside, Watto is a tough cricketer who'll be around smashing the world's best bowlers for many many years to come.

Posted by paramthegreat on (December 29, 2009, 23:01 GMT)

lets c.....he got dropped on 43 in 1sdt innings which gave him da confidence...same with sehwag who was dropped on 0 and made 131 in the IND SL test. in 2nd innings he got dropped on 99, but he did deserve a century there, no doubt . against WI, he was dropped on 7 and made 93 . all batsmen , especially M hussey put up a string of big scores due to dropped chances at the start of their careers.Just goes on to show how imp it is to be a safe fielding side. I have no doubt that Watto will become a good player now provided he has luck going his way and also due to his increased confidence, his technique is more brilliant than ever . However, his true test will be in ENg vs ENg in Tests and in India vs India in Tests. however, best of luck to him on his future.

Posted by kewlneo on (December 29, 2009, 23:00 GMT)

Would wait against stronger opposition like India and South Africa. He did fail against England.

Posted by Stryder56 on (December 29, 2009, 21:16 GMT)

In the past I haven't been a Watson supporter because I believed that he was overrated, but since he has been moved to opener I have to stand corrected as he has proven to me as a spectator that he has come of age and does belong in the Australian team. His cover drives and straight drives are a pleasure to watch and with those strokes is as good as any of the greats. Shane I am glad that you proved me wrong. Just be yourself and not what others want you to be.

Posted by gundam on (December 29, 2009, 19:52 GMT)

I am sick of people sayging "if Pakistan only held on to their catches". Last I looked, fielding is part of the game of cricket, so if they have problem with their catching, it's the same as they having problems in the batting and bowling. No one ever says that "if a team haven't nicked so many balls to the slips", they would have won. Watson is a good player, his scores prove that, yes luck has a bit to do with it but which good player would dare say luck never has anything to do with their form.

Posted by mrmonty on (December 29, 2009, 19:39 GMT)

I recall Hayden and Ponting mouthing off few years ago that Subcontinental players are selfish and slow down for personal milestone. Well, the times must have changed, since that phenomenon is known as resilience now...

Posted by gottalovetheraindance on (December 29, 2009, 18:57 GMT)

this actually is nothing new to me. an average batsman or just above it has the world singing his praises as he is good at riding his luck & grabs the oppurtunity when given a chance. Anyone remember Ravi Bopara? he made 3 centuries on the trot against a weakened West Indies attack & every1 was saying how good he is. no one looked at the fact that he had repeatedly been dropped or given not out incorrectly in all 3 innings. just look at how well he did in the ashes? he coundnt even make 40 & ended up being dropped for the tour of South Africa. both Watson & Bopara are not 'proactivists' they are oppurtunists. they perform when they are given the chance to perform & they are apparently very good at it. when softy watson faces an agressive side that will get at him hard & hold their chances he will be found out just like Bopara & the selectors will have to go beg phil hughes for his forgivness no hard feelings Wato & best of luck. your going to need it

Posted by SakthivelS on (December 29, 2009, 18:13 GMT)

Mr J.C.Narasimhan, please read the article thoroughly. Read the sentence "Despite the dropped chance on 99, he thoroughly deserved his century".... People of such calibre are rare to find. Hats off to Shane Watson!

Posted by itsjustnot on (December 29, 2009, 17:50 GMT)

One last point: SR Watson faced 220 balls, the other batsmen collectively faced 226. Give the man his due!!

Posted by itsjustnot on (December 29, 2009, 17:46 GMT)

Easy up, viewers. The gentleman has worked hard and has been doing a good job. Sure, there's been a little fortune come his way, but that is part life. 2009 test innings: 62, 53, 51, 34, 40, 0, 96, 40, 89, 30, 93, and 120*. Let the man have his day -- I mean, he carried his bat and scored a century, outscoring the next best innings of his teammates by more than **80 runs**!!!. Well done SR Watson. May the continuation of your form leave the doomsayers disgruntled.

Posted by J.C.Narasimhan on (December 29, 2009, 15:10 GMT)

Watto is soft. He got 93 and 120 just because Pakistan dropped him twice in the same test. He will be exposed in the near future. He just has luck going his way. Gayle is 100% correct...he's just a soft & good-looking kid. THAAAAAAAAAT'S IT.

And, moreover he doesn't deserve to be playing in this test...the ban should have been applied on him also. Peter Roebuck is right.

Posted by proteasrule on (December 29, 2009, 14:51 GMT)

Shane Watson is playing realy well at the moment. He had it all in his hundred patients an array of strokes. He had played the drive beautifully in his innings. He also played expectionally well in the first innings for 93 well played Shane Watson.

Posted by ShehryarShaukat on (December 29, 2009, 14:34 GMT)

They can do it against the pathetic Indian side, who don't have a Single 'FAST BOWLER' in their side :)

Posted by bulldog on (December 29, 2009, 14:15 GMT)

I would not be surprised if Pakistan pulls of an upset victory tommorow, given the problems with the Australian bowling attack. Imagine if the butter-fingered Pakistanis had held on to some of their catches,!

Posted by dyson85 on (December 29, 2009, 14:02 GMT)

In response to navten's comment.... I dunno if you've seen much of Watson, but he is not a makeshift aggressor. He is without a doubt one of the, if not the most, technically "correct" and elegant batsmen in Australia. This is not to say he will ever be as effective as Jayasuria and Sehwag, he will never be. Those guys, especially Jayasuria, revolutionised the opening role. Watson still scores pretty fast, he is aggressive, but nothing like those guys. He hits a large portion of balls along the ground, has great footwork, plays very very straight and rolls his wrist on most hook and pull shots. If he can get his head right, I really think he has huge potential as an opener.

Posted by proteasrule on (December 29, 2009, 13:08 GMT)

Shane Watson has always been a very good player. It was a brilliant innings with patients and class he played an array of strokes. I think he will have a very good career in tests for Australia. well played Shane Watson.

Posted by vatsap on (December 29, 2009, 11:45 GMT)

I am not a big fan of Watson, but I think credit is due to Watson for ploughing thro the injuries, second fiddle to Symo and making it. Based purely on runs he has been Australia's most consistent batsman and has been providing them with start. Can't really understand the fuss in the Aussie media esp on bringing back Hughes to the top of the order. In the longer run that might be good, for now Watson has the runs to keep people quiet.Also reminds me of Tom Moody in the late 80s and early 90s who played one drop for some test matches.

Kudos to Ponting for supporting Watson.

Posted by Hodge008 on (December 29, 2009, 11:29 GMT)

But Hughes has to come back because he's clearly the future... I don't mind Watson at 3 at some point in the future, he seems better suited to it than Clarke or anyone else in the team at the moment

Posted by AndieRae606 on (December 29, 2009, 11:19 GMT)

Some pretty ungenerous comments here for someone who has achieved much and overcome much. No-one is suggesting he is the next Hayden; being a good Watson suffices:

Posted by __PK on (December 29, 2009, 10:55 GMT)

ram5610 has it all wrong. He IS the next Hayden and not just because of one century. Rather, his consistency at the top is where he most resembles Hayden, who was also a prolifically solid starter, even when not in the best form. Very few low scores. I'm hoping they persist with Watson there until Ponting and Hussey retire and then they can move him to No 3. Katich, Hughes, Watson, Clarke, North, Ferguson, Haddin, Johnson, Hauritz make for a lethal top nine in 2012.

Posted by popcorn on (December 29, 2009, 10:53 GMT)

I simply cannot understand why Andrew Hilditch and the Australian Selectors are in a tearing hurry to thrust Philip Hughes as an opener. Has he proved that he has overcome his faulty technique and flashy play, that was the MAIN reason for Australia'a Ashes debacle? The reason I say that Phil Hiughes was responsible is because,world over, it is well established that the openers lay the foiundation. Philip Hughes iS NOT DEPENDABLE. Shane Watson IS. Can Philip Hughes SMOOTHLY take Ponting's place at no.3 when he retires? Only then can he come into the side.Chris Rogers and Phil Jacques are far more reliable openers.Can't understand why Chris Rogers is being overlooked. He was played in one Test against India and was given out WRONGLY by the umpires.Simon Katich and Shane Watson are established openers now. Don't tinker with them,please.Once Katich reaches retirement age,slot in Chris Rogers.or Phil Jacques. Let Shane Watson remain as an opener.Phil Hughes can wait.Like Mike Hussey has.

Posted by bonaku on (December 29, 2009, 10:47 GMT)

Ppl use to say it is selfish when sachin use to slow down when he is nearing hundreds, but when the same thing happens in case of watson.. they call it resilience.... i am bit lost here.

Posted by MFNadeem on (December 29, 2009, 10:14 GMT)

Watson is in the form of his life. But I guess that the missed catch by MISBAH of the Doosra by AJMAL in the first innings set the tone for his back to back good performances in this test match.

Posted by SUDHIKUL on (December 29, 2009, 10:14 GMT)

This is a player who has found his touch after many many years in the wilderness and injury scare. But, just because he has scored his first century, doesn't justify the faith put in him by the selectors. He has to consistently deliver at the top of the order, for him to stand any chance of at least coming close to the class of Hayden and Gilchrist.

Posted by Notout_Naveen on (December 29, 2009, 9:56 GMT)

Eairler it was the case that only the opening specialist batsmen with sound technique was always prefered as a test opener.. But i guess after succesful ploy of gambling sehwag at the toporder has changed things quite a bit. Aggressors are given a bit of consideration.. now opening is not just an art of seeing off the new ball but going for shots like odi's. Jayasurya, Sehwag, Dilshan now Watson are makeshift aggressors made test opening look rather easy.

Posted by ram5160 on (December 29, 2009, 9:22 GMT)

What an incredibly short sighted article. Just because he scored a century,doesnt make him the next hayden. His susceptibility to injuries is all the more reason to play him down the order and reduce his work-load. If Aus is not going to experiment against the windies and Pak who are they going to do it against?

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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