So near yet so far for Watson
Shane Watson admitted his failure to complete his maiden Test century at the Adelaide Oval was "the most shattered I've been", and vowed a more restrained approach when he next closes in on the milestone. Watson resumed the third day's play against West Indies unbeaten on 96, only to be bowled attempting to blast Sulieman Benn through midwicket on the second ball of the morning.
Watson's momentary loss of composure was the low-point of an otherwise superb Test for the allrounder, featuring three wickets and innings of 96 and 48. His average after five matches as opener now stands at a robust 48, and includes four half-centuries from eight innings. A Test ton, however, remains elusive.
"It's always nice to score a hundred in first-class cricket, but my ultimate goal no doubt is to score a hundred in Test-match cricket," Watson said. "There's a big difference. I've been lucky enough to be in the 90s in one-day cricket and first-class cricket, but there are different things going through your mind. It really does mean so much for me to get a hundred in a Test match. I definitely learned from it, because I don't really want to feel the way I did after I got out again.
"It's the most shattered I've been. To be able to be so close to realising a childhood dream of getting a Test match hundred was very shattering. I slept very ordinarily. I kept thinking about the four runs I needed to get my first hundred. Unfortunately, that's what engulfed me when I was out there for that very brief stay the next morning. I definitely got caught up in it a little bit. Hopefully I will get another opportunity and clear my mind and not get caught up in the number like I did."
Now in the final month of the busiest year of his career, Watson continues to revel in the dual roles of opening batsman and fourth seamer. A strict training regime and an unparalleled work ethic have helped banish the ghosts of injuries past and installed him as a first-choice member of Australian teams in all three formats.
Watson's contributions with both bat and ball buffered Australia from a determined and largely unexpected West Iindies onslaught in Adelaide. His innings were notable for fluent strokeplay against the fast bowlers, and his reverse-swing in both innings limited the impact of the visitors' in-form batting line-up.
Ricky Ponting might have expressed concerns over Watson's current workload, but the player himself is resisting calls for a demotion in the batting order. In a year when fellow allrounders Andrew Flintoff, Jacques Kallis and Jacob Oram have been struck down with various injuries, Watson insists he is capable of opening the batting and providing seam-bowling support over the long-term.
"What I've worked so hard for is to be able to sustain it for a long period of time," he said. "The things that I'm doing seem to be working very well. We do have a lot of cricket on, there's no doubt about that, but at the moment I'm getting through it really nicely. It's great to be a big part of this Test match in both batting and bowling. As always, Ricky does balance my bowling workload very well. He bowls me when it's required and gives me a rest when it's required."
Providing Watson with confidence that allrounders' workloads are sustainable in the modern game is his West Indian counterpart, Dwayne Bravo. Playing his first Test series after an extended lay-off due to ankle surgery, Bravo has been in superb touch, combining for scores of 104 and 22 in Adelaide to complement his three second-innings wickets.
"It is always nice to see other guys do what you're trying to do yourself; to know that you can do it," Watson said. "Dwayne is someone I always look out to see how he's going, whether it's here or overseas, just to see the things he's been doing and the games he's playing. Obviously you compare yourself to the people who are your likeness in international cricket.
"Someone like Jacques Kallis is the ultimate allrounder with the things he's been able to achieve, so it's hard to compare yourself to someone like him. But someone like Dwayne Bravo, I feel there is a bit of likeness there with exactly what we do. Of course, it's always nice to see someone achieving the things you want to achieve."
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo