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December 17, 2008
Simon Katich's walk across his stumps is a strange manoeuvre but it is working so well for him that he has shuffled his way into being Australia's most consistent batsman. Katich's 83 against South Africa was a vital innings after Australia fell to 3 for 15 within the first 30 minutes at the WACA and he said it ranked with his very best efforts at Test level.
"It felt important because I know at the start of the day we felt that obviously this is a huge series and at 3 for 15 that's when you'd want to stand up and help everyone out," Katich said. "It was a tense little period early on but thankfully Clarkey [Michael Clarke] and I managed to scrounge a partnership together and we felt a little bit better at lunch."
The 149-run stand between Katich and Clarke eased the pressure on Australia after they lost Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, and it allowed them to compile a respectable 9 for 341 by stumps. It was an end result that pleased Katich, who looked controlled and composed at the crease.
His confidence was hardly surprising as the WACA was his home ground for the first half of his state career before he relocated to New South Wales. Seven years after making his Test debut he finally made his first appearance in Perth, the city where he was raised.
Katich said his technique, which includes a shuffle so significant it often exposes his leg stump, was honed to suit the local conditions. It worked for 83 runs today until the method proved his undoing when he missed a Morne Morkel full toss and was lbw.
"Having grown up here there's always a danger of getting out nicking because of the extra pace and bounce," Katich said. "The danger is as I got out [today], if I get hit then it's going to be close. But on a wicket like this you've got to back yourself to try and hit the ball all the time."
Laying bat on ball has not been too difficult in the past few months for Katich, who is experiencing a career renaissance at the age of 33. When he returned to the Test team in the West Indies in May it was as a temporary replacement for the injured Hayden. He has become so prolific that he is comfortably Australia's leading scorer since that time, with a buffer of more than 200 runs to his nearest colleague, and deserves to be locked in to the opening role for the foreseeable future.
The situation is less certain for Hayden, who struck three commanding fours before he poked outside off stump and edged to slip for 12. It continued a disappointing run for Hayden, who was below his best on the tour of India and has scored 8, 0, 24 and 12 in Australia's home Tests this summer. Katich said he had no concerns over Hayden's form and was certain his slump would not last too long.
"As his opening partner I know that it's a tough job going out there and facing the new ball, particularly against their attack, it's a quality attack," Katich said. "He'll be disappointed with how he got out today but I think he's a quality player and he'll bounce back … he's been through it all so he knows how to deal with it."
Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala
What Australia have not done since returning a fractured unit from India is head back to Asia to play an Asian team. Two of their major weaknesses - handling spin and reverse swing - will be tested in the UAE by Pakistan