Watson gives West Indies a lesson
Australia 259 for 6 (Watson 135) beat West Indies 256 for 9 (DM Bravo 86, Starc 4-29) by four wickets
Shane Watson gave West Indies a good lesson in how to change gears through an innings with a powerful century that helped Australia register an easy four-wicket victory in their first warm-up match with 11.1 overs to spare.
Despite the loss of both Australian openers in the opening over of the chase from Kemar Roach, Watson remained assertive throughout, combining well with Adam Voges in a match-winning 125-run fourth-wicket partnership as the pair took advantage of the indiscipline that crept into the West Indies bowling after the first 15 overs.
In the end a modest target of 257, on a seaming pitch, was made to look pedestrian by Watson, who made certain that the 2,000 fans, who had paid £20 a ticket, remained entertained despite the absence of Chris Gayle, who had been rested. Playing with the same gusto and aggression that Gayle uses to dominate opponents, Watson showed why he remains one of the most dangerous batsman in the game.
Roach, playing for the first time in England after returning home midway from the Tests series last year, made an immediate impact by getting rid of David Warner and Philip Hughes, who paid the price for playing expansive drives against similar deliveries: angled and moving away from the bat. Both were caught brilliantly by Denesh Ramdin, who dived to take the catch in front of first slip.
In the absence of Michael Clarke (rested along with Glen Maxwell and Xavier Doherty), Watson was the most experienced Australian batsman. To begin with, West Indies fast bowling contingent did well not to get carried away after the two quick wickets. Roach, Tino Best, Jason Holder and Darren Sammy maintained a tight off-stump line without giving much width to Watson and his stand-in captain George Bailey to free their arms in the initial Powerplay overs.
At 40 for 2 from the first 10 overs, Bailey was getting restless and had a few near misses. On 14, having pulled Holder for four, Bailey earned a life after Dwayne Bravo, at first slip, dropped a thick edge while attempting to take the catch on the dive to his right. But Bailey failed to make the most of the opportunity as he went for a slashing drive against Sammy a couple of overs later, to be caught by a second brilliant catch by Ramdin, who had a field day with four catches.
Watson remained unperturbed. He had come into the Champions Trophy on the back of good form in the IPL where he was the fifth-highest run maker. The difference today was he was opening compared to batting in the middle order during the IPL. Yet he adjusted without fuss and was at ease both on the front and back foot. Not rushing into his strokes, he made use of the bowler's lengths wisely. When Holder gifted him a half-volley, Watson punished him with a lofted drive over the mid-off for four. Next delivery, when the bowler pitched slightly fuller on middle and leg, Watson played a wristy drive to the left of midwicket for another easy four.
West Indies, especially Dwayne Bravo, tried to attack Watson. Bravo, in his very first over, tried to bowl short but was wayward and taken for 13 runs. He kept repeating the mistake in his following over, from around the wicket, to allow Watson to move closer to his century, which he reached with a chip-and-charge for a single. It had taken him 85 balls with 58 runs coming in boundaries.
At the halfway mark Australia were 129 for 3. In a further five overs they were cruising at 187 for 3 with 35 runs coming in just the 29th and 30th overs. Sunil Narine, who had gone for 12 in his first four overs, was hit by Watson for 15 in his fifth while Dwayne Bravo went for the most expensive over of the match, which cost 20 runs.
In the end West Indies were bound to feel disappointed. Although Darren Bravo had worked hard to hit a lovely 86, the inability of the other batsmen to capitalise on starts eventually robbed West Indies of finishing with a much stronger total. Johnson Charles started the innings with some flowing cover drives but as soon as the Australian bowlers found their lengths, Charles failed to change the gears and couldn't rotate the strike. In the absence of much able batsmen Marlon Samuels and the hard-hitting Kieron Pollard in the lower order, West Indies were always going to find it hard to build on the platform set by Darren Bravo. But if they watched Watson closely, they would have learned a good lesson.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo