World Cup 2015: Australia February 25, 2015

No looseners for under-pressure Watson

Shane Watson has only made a fleeting appearance at the crease so far in the World Cup © Getty Images

There have been no easy starts for Shane Watson in this World Cup. In his only innings of the tournament, he was out for a first-ball duck when he edged Stuart Broad behind at the MCG. In Auckland on Wednesday he faced the media for the first time in the World Cup, and the opening question was no Dorothy Dixer.

"Do you concede that Saturday is crunch time for you to make runs to keep your place?"

"Geez that's a hard-hitting question to start off with," Watson replied after a long pause. "It's crunch time for me to score runs in general. I didn't score runs in the first game which was very disappointing - to not get through that first ball.

"I think it's important for me to score runs anytime. It's up to the selectors in the end, whether they see fit for me to play. But I'm doing everything I possibly can. I've been in and around a number of World Cup campaigns. I know what to expect and I know it doesn't always go exactly to plan as well."

It has been a challenging summer for Watson, particularly in the Test arena - he averaged 29.75 in the series against India. One-day cricket has generally been a more bankable format for him, but in the past two years he has averaged 31.17 in ODIs. An 82 against South Africa in Sydney in November was encouraging, but a hamstring niggle in this year's tri-series came at a bad time.

Australia's selectors have already had to make a hard decision on who to axe for the returning captain Michael Clarke, with George Bailey likely to sit out against New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday. But another decision will have to be made whenever James Faulkner comes back from his side strain.

Faulkner had been bowling in the nets of a short run-up but came off his full run for a few overs in Auckland on Wednesday, and while it might be a stretch to imagine him returning for this game, he might not be far away. When fit, Faulkner is a certain starter given his finishing ability with the bat and use as a frontline bowler, and Mitchell Marsh's five-wicket haul against England at the MCG has added to the selection squeeze.

The likelihood is that Watson's experience, and the desire to retain a stable top three, will help him retain his place. But equally if Marsh continues to display his improvement, it might not be a straightforward decision for Rod Marsh and his selection panel.

"I do feel it's coming along well, I just haven't scored runs," Watson said. "I didn't get through the first ball in the first game against England and unfortunately didn't get a chance to play against Bangladesh. I actually feel like I'm hitting the ball well. I just need to give myself a chance to get in some innings and get things rolling.

"I think we have got a lot of match-winners right throughout our batting order but the top three is very important to being able to set up our whole innings, especially with two white balls as well we need to make sure that we give ourselves a chance to be able have a few wickets through that middle period and the back end."

Australia had another lengthy training session on the Eden Park outer oval on Wednesday as they aim to regain the touch they displayed against England on the first day of the tournament. Their wash-out against Bangladesh in Brisbane means that Australia will enter this weekend's game with limited match time, compared to New Zealand, who have won three from three.

"It's disappointing that we haven't played a game in two weeks," Watson said. "It would have been nice to play and continue our roll on after the game against England but I am not sure it is a disadvantage ... one positive is going to the game guys are going to be very fresh after not playing for a bit."

The Australians will also need to adjust from the vast outfield at the MCG to the unusually short straight boundaries at Eden Park, which is largely used as a rugby ground. It might help batsmen like Watson loft the ball down the ground for six, but protecting the boundaries from the likes of Brendon McCullum when in the field could be a major challenge.

"It's different dimensions for a cricket ground," Watson said. "I remember last time there was a couple of really small pockets, very short pockets, but also a couple of big pockets as well. It's not your standard cricket ground. And the crowd definitely feels right on top of you as well, with a lot of New Zealanders not really enjoying our company out there."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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