England v Australia, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston, 3rd day

Watson wants to cement opening role

Peter English at Edgbaston

August 1, 2009

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Shane Watson pads up for a hit at the nets, Cardiff, July 6, 2009
Shane Watson aims to be Simon Katich's long-term opening partner © Getty Images
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Shane Watson has already started thinking about being more alert at the beginning of an innings after his promising debut as a Test opener was ended by a first-ball dismissal on the second day. Watson, a surprise replacement for Phillip Hughes at the top of the order, breezed to a confident 62 on the first afternoon of the rain-interrupted third Test before falling lbw to Graham Onions when stuck on the crease the following morning.

"It wasn't a special delivery, I stuffed up more than anything," Watson said after the third day was abandoned due to rain. "I didn't sleep much that night. I went through in my head way too much what the next morning could bring. It wasn't part of the plan to get out first ball. It gave me something to learn from and hopefully it won't happen again."

Watson, a 28-year-old whose previous hope of getting in the side relied on his all-round status, now has dreams of being Simon Katich's long-term partner. He has been shuffled around the order during nine Tests and until now has been a bits-and-pieces player rather than a specialist in either discipline. An unfortunate injury record hasn't helped his bid for continuity - the last setback was a thigh injury during the World Twenty20 - but he feels comfortable re-angling his outlook in a bid for a permanent position.

"My career has never gone to plan so I've got no idea what will happen in the next three or four years," he said. "I had no idea what would happen in the previous ones. At the moment I love the challenge of opening and now that I have the technique to open the batting, there is no doubt I've got the mental and technical aspects to consistently do well. I just have to consistently perform and form a partnership with Simon Katich."

Following Hughes' struggles in the first two matches of the series, Watson walked out looking like a Test batsman, driving and pulling strongly while bringing up his second career half-century, but there is much more work to be done before he can qualify as a long-term option in the position. He credited Greg Chappell, the Centre of Excellence coach, for helping to reshape his approach since a failed attempt at the top of the order for Queensland, his previous state.

He simplified his style, cutting out the more mechanical movements, and now keeps his mind clear. "The development of my technique meant I could take it on more comfortably than I did previously," he said. "The opening stint I had 18 months ago was very poor. To be able to develop my game, especially technically, meant I had the best chance to combat the new ball and the English bowlers."

Watson didn't bowl on Friday when England reached 116 for 2 in 36 overs in their reply to Australia's 263, but he remains a useful option, particularly if Mitchell Johnson's struggles continue. He hasn't spoken to Ponting about his role, although he would be comfortable delivering between 12 and 15 overs a day.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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