India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 1st day October 1, 2010

Patient Watson passes the test

Shane Watson overcame India's bowling and barracking and the nervous 90s to score a fighting century
41

The way a man is perceived - by his peers, by the public, by the world at large - can change greatly in a day of Test cricket. The Indian fielders gave Shane Watson a few verbals in the morning session because they saw him as the most vulnerable among the Australians, a bit of a softie in that department. Watson, though, didn't allow that, or other tactics, to get to him and was around to block the last ball of the day having scored 101 off 279.

Watson stretched way forward to that ball from Pragyan Ojha, defended, tucked the bat under his arm and walked back. Rahul Dravid at slip was the first man to congratulate him. Then came Suresh Raina, all the way from midwicket, followed by Harbhajan Singh, who had played cat-and-mouse with Watson all day long. Zaheer Khan, who'd had a spat with Ricky Ponting earlier before bowling a superb spell of reverse-swing to bring India back, called out to Watson from the other end of the ground. Watson was perhaps too spent after more than six hours of fierce concentration and had to be nudged by Tim Paine to look Zaheer's way; he acknowledged the generous applause with a raise of the hand.

This was the same Watson with whom, two years ago, an Indian cricketer had had a physical altercation on the field. The same Watson whose antics often detract from his stature. The prat. The way a man is perceived can change greatly in a day of Test cricket.

Perhaps India didn't expect such an effort from Watson. For more than six hours - this was the first time he'd batted through a day in Tests - he didn't hit one shot over the infield. He spent 110 deliveries without hitting a boundary and was run-less for spells of 14 balls, 14 balls, 11 balls, 12 balls, and 12 balls, separated by the odd single or two. That might be business as usual for somebody like Dravid but Watson was defending out of his skin.

There seemed to be an exercise for the muscle memory too. As he took stance, Watson kept his right hand on his right knee until very late, holding the bat in just his top hand until the bowler was about to deliver. Perhaps it was a way of reminding himself to go soft on the bottom hand, perhaps it was a conscious exercise to ensure the bottom hand was not too stiff. Whatever its purpose, it worked.

The clear shift in his approach came when Watson was involved in Ricky Ponting's run-out, calling for a single after a ricochet off forward short leg. After that, he scored just 37 off 146 deliveries. Scoring slowly wasn't an indulgence, it was a necessity. After that Ponting run-out, India operated smartly. The bowlers responded to the captain's field sets and made sure boundaries would not come without risky shots.

Watson later apologised for the slow going. "Unfortunately 45 runs [in a session] isn't great entertainment, is it?" he said. "We are here to provide entertainment, but the Indians did bowl really well. Their fields were excellent, it did make it really hard to score and rotate the strike. I suppose that's what Test cricket is all about. They were tough sessions to get through. Hopefully those 45 runs become very valuable later on in the game."

The areas to score against the offspin of Harbhajan Singh were over midwicket and square on the off side. Ojha operated similarly, only with a slightly more protected off side, because against him Watson would be playing with the turn if trying to hit into the off side. All day long the spinners kept tossing it up, inviting the famous Watson slog-sweep. Harbhajan generously mixed in topspinners for the top edge. All day long Watson kept resisting, waiting for the ones down the wrong line to work away for runs. He had seen Michael Clarke perish while trying to manufacture a cut. That route was not taken by him unless the ball was really short. He faced 159 dot balls from the two spinners and hit just one boundary. Even the infamous Watson 90s couldn't draw a nervous response.

In scoring his third century in three innings on this tour, Watson cleared many tests today. He played a game that doesn't come naturally to him, he concentrated hard, and he kept a check on his emotions. Even after a supremely uncharacteristic effort, Watson knows his work is only half done because of the falling wickets at the other end, and partly because of the slow run-rate. He knows a day of such hard work can easily come to nought. Then again, who said Test cricket was easy?

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on October 3, 2010, 0:46 GMT

    I think Watsons future is at no.3, with Punter dropping sown the order. I won't knock Watto but I think there were times where he could of grabbed the iniative, but 3 centuries in a row on tour is pretty good. It bodes well for the future, he appeared to have been trying a different technique for Indian pitches - which I think is outstanding that he pulled that off. Today (Day 3), he will need to do a bit of bowling - I would of liked to have seen him have a bowl before Hauritz yesterday.

  • Meety on October 3, 2010, 0:42 GMT

    @Popcorn - usually agree with you, but your comments on Hughes are too harsh. Hayden, took a while to find consistancy - Watson is about 6yrs older than Hughes , with alot more International exposure. I think Hughes is a gem, but it couldn't hurt spending time with Chappell.

  • bigbang07 on October 2, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    Well done Watson! Not an attractive but pretty effective nevertheless, considering the occasion demanded it. I was a bit disappointed he couldn't make a 150 today. though. He played very well for his second test ton.I was Impressed at how well he kept his cool, good players make their chances count.

    To all the Indians who cant appreciate a good innings just because they have only two decent bowlers (Zaheer and Singh) and not so good fielding standards, grow up. Its really getting old.

  • on October 2, 2010, 6:28 GMT

    Grow up Indian fans. Mohali , not bouncing and seaming as usual. Bad news for Ben and Pete!

  • boooonnie on October 2, 2010, 6:27 GMT

    Make no mistake North will be batting for his test career in the second innings - and it better be something special. A real shame considering how well he started his test career.

  • popcorn on October 2, 2010, 6:26 GMT

    Shane Watson, you have truly arrived as an opener! Like Justin Langer and Sunil Gavaskar,you have shown application,grit,concentration, patience,tenacity,and temperament needed to be a good team player. Phil Hughes, learn from Shane watson - I would NEVER select you as an opener - you are not dependable - maybe at no.6 - but you do not have the solidity required for a no.6 batsman. So go back to the COE and learn.Greg Chappell taught Shane Watson.

  • Meety on October 2, 2010, 5:41 GMT

    @bigwonder - the lamest/slackest thing a fielder can do is give a departing batsmen a verbal spray as they left the field. Zaheer is the one that erred in judgement. @nineteennineteen - too right. I think Usman would of been great here. I am a fan of Smith but he needs to make a big score next time he plays. North should be dropped, & I hate to say it but Hussey should go too.

  • backwardpoint on October 2, 2010, 5:06 GMT

    It occurs to my mind that the incident that is being talked about - the physical altercation with an Indian batsman was started by one Gautam Gambhir when he deliberately went and elbowed Shane Watson when he had the entire pitch to run in.

    I feel that Gambhir was lucky to get away with just a one match test ban and Vijay can in to the series without any experience and socred a few.

    I am an Indian here too and it was still shameful to see that episode of altercation. sad, indeed.

  • Tendulkars_Tennis_Elbow on October 2, 2010, 4:45 GMT

    Why are they still persisting with Marcus North?

  • cricket_for_all on October 2, 2010, 3:35 GMT

    Fine Innings Watto!!!. You can't minimize his innings because of drops catches (so called #1 team should have good fielding ability). It is so bad telling something to someone who is walking off the field (But I don't know what Zahir said). But there is no any moral right to AUS to complain about the sleddings. Australians are masters in sledding (How do you feel Mr. Ponting!! Is it hurting when you are getting back what you have been doing for decades).

  • Meety on October 3, 2010, 0:46 GMT

    I think Watsons future is at no.3, with Punter dropping sown the order. I won't knock Watto but I think there were times where he could of grabbed the iniative, but 3 centuries in a row on tour is pretty good. It bodes well for the future, he appeared to have been trying a different technique for Indian pitches - which I think is outstanding that he pulled that off. Today (Day 3), he will need to do a bit of bowling - I would of liked to have seen him have a bowl before Hauritz yesterday.

  • Meety on October 3, 2010, 0:42 GMT

    @Popcorn - usually agree with you, but your comments on Hughes are too harsh. Hayden, took a while to find consistancy - Watson is about 6yrs older than Hughes , with alot more International exposure. I think Hughes is a gem, but it couldn't hurt spending time with Chappell.

  • bigbang07 on October 2, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    Well done Watson! Not an attractive but pretty effective nevertheless, considering the occasion demanded it. I was a bit disappointed he couldn't make a 150 today. though. He played very well for his second test ton.I was Impressed at how well he kept his cool, good players make their chances count.

    To all the Indians who cant appreciate a good innings just because they have only two decent bowlers (Zaheer and Singh) and not so good fielding standards, grow up. Its really getting old.

  • on October 2, 2010, 6:28 GMT

    Grow up Indian fans. Mohali , not bouncing and seaming as usual. Bad news for Ben and Pete!

  • boooonnie on October 2, 2010, 6:27 GMT

    Make no mistake North will be batting for his test career in the second innings - and it better be something special. A real shame considering how well he started his test career.

  • popcorn on October 2, 2010, 6:26 GMT

    Shane Watson, you have truly arrived as an opener! Like Justin Langer and Sunil Gavaskar,you have shown application,grit,concentration, patience,tenacity,and temperament needed to be a good team player. Phil Hughes, learn from Shane watson - I would NEVER select you as an opener - you are not dependable - maybe at no.6 - but you do not have the solidity required for a no.6 batsman. So go back to the COE and learn.Greg Chappell taught Shane Watson.

  • Meety on October 2, 2010, 5:41 GMT

    @bigwonder - the lamest/slackest thing a fielder can do is give a departing batsmen a verbal spray as they left the field. Zaheer is the one that erred in judgement. @nineteennineteen - too right. I think Usman would of been great here. I am a fan of Smith but he needs to make a big score next time he plays. North should be dropped, & I hate to say it but Hussey should go too.

  • backwardpoint on October 2, 2010, 5:06 GMT

    It occurs to my mind that the incident that is being talked about - the physical altercation with an Indian batsman was started by one Gautam Gambhir when he deliberately went and elbowed Shane Watson when he had the entire pitch to run in.

    I feel that Gambhir was lucky to get away with just a one match test ban and Vijay can in to the series without any experience and socred a few.

    I am an Indian here too and it was still shameful to see that episode of altercation. sad, indeed.

  • Tendulkars_Tennis_Elbow on October 2, 2010, 4:45 GMT

    Why are they still persisting with Marcus North?

  • cricket_for_all on October 2, 2010, 3:35 GMT

    Fine Innings Watto!!!. You can't minimize his innings because of drops catches (so called #1 team should have good fielding ability). It is so bad telling something to someone who is walking off the field (But I don't know what Zahir said). But there is no any moral right to AUS to complain about the sleddings. Australians are masters in sledding (How do you feel Mr. Ponting!! Is it hurting when you are getting back what you have been doing for decades).

  • smudgeon on October 2, 2010, 2:25 GMT

    ...and surely today was a sign that it must be getting to the end for Hussey and North. With Usman Khawaja, Phillip Hughes, and Steven Smith waiting in the wings, do the selectors really need to persist with someone as boom/bust as Marcus North? Time for a change, gents.

  • smudgeon on October 2, 2010, 2:19 GMT

    I was most impressed with Watto yesterday. Probably his best innings to date - he was fairly aggressive early on, then the game turned and he adjusted without much fuss into to the anchoring role (which must be pretty unfamiliar to him). I've never had much time for him as a cricketer, but perhaps this is a sign he is finally maturing. Good luck for the next four days, Watto.

  • sabee66 on October 2, 2010, 1:45 GMT

    i wonder if Zaheer khan could understand Ponting's englihs...lol it would be worst with harbhajan, coz he doesnt at all Aussie will kill them badly in test and ODI's, Go Aussie Go

  • Bone101 on October 2, 2010, 0:27 GMT

    What a terrible afternoon for Australian cricket. It just goes to show that the selectors have persisted with the wrong middle order for too long now. What a nightmare for this series and the Ashes around the corner. Hussey and North need to be dropped for the next test. These middle order collapes are becoming far to common. How many have there been since the tour of England last year? Bring in smith and hughes with watson to drop down the order to number 5. It's inevitable that those two young lads are the future.... get them in the game asap!

  • Something_Witty on October 2, 2010, 0:00 GMT

    Wow, stop banging on about the dropped chances. If you're going to take this away from Watson, better take Tendulkar's recent 203 vs SL away from him. On the flattest pitch in history, he was dropped on 50 something and had 3 LBW's given not out when they could easily have gone against him. Great batsmen will still give chances, but if they aren't taken, they will punish you for it. Good innings from Watson, but the slow scoring rate of all other batsmen really puts Ponting's wonderful innings in perspective.

  • Chris_P on October 1, 2010, 23:04 GMT

    @timelord24. Have you ever, I mean ever played a serious game of cricket in your life? Do you even know the difference between sledging & abuse? Sledging is something said (mostly) to fellow fielders commenting on how awkward or nervous someone looks, something to let the batsman think or lose concentration. Even a few funny comments for variation. If you read the report, it stated the Indians verballed Watson early in his innings. So what? That is a a part of cricket. Ponting has been verballing longer than most and let me tell you, he was receiving it big time ever since he made his 1st class debut as a 17yo so not much has slipped him. So when he reacts like this, it would have to be for a taunt or personal abuse, and this after both teams set out for controversy free series? It takes 2 to tango, I hope Khan is up to receiving it as well as giving it out. We'll see what comes up. As for Watson, I didn't think he had the patience for such an innings, so perhaps the future is bright

  • silly_mid_on on October 1, 2010, 22:00 GMT

    Watson will be the best batsman in the world. Wait until you see how many runs he scores over the next 2 years. His technique is as good as it gets. Now he has the confidence. The Allan Border medal was just the start.

  • on_the_level on October 1, 2010, 21:23 GMT

    @Jmoney90: Good excuse, that Australians don't grow up playing on spinning pitches. Well, Indians don't grow up playing on bouncy pitches, but that doesn't stop the criticism from many Australians that their technique is suspect, and they are "flat pitch bullies" and so on and dreary on. Man up and stop whingeing. Mate.

  • KSalik on October 1, 2010, 21:13 GMT

    india's weak bowling attack exposed by watson. well done young man carry on tomorrow. you need to carry on

  • DheerajS on October 1, 2010, 21:01 GMT

    @SFay - I am with you mate. :)

  • Winsome on October 1, 2010, 19:44 GMT

    Gee, Shane Watson must be one of the luckiest players around. The heavens must be paying him back for his years of being in the wilderness with injuries. He gets dropped so often in test cricket.

    I'm no fan of North but if he had half the chances dropped off his batting that Watto has had in test cricket...

  • Stevo_ on October 1, 2010, 19:42 GMT

    @timelord24 It's called giving it back ? When did Poting cry?, just turned around , looked Khan in the eye and told him a thing or two. YOu can't have it both ways gents? If Australians do nothing, they are playing with "fear", if they react they are "crying", if they say an opposition is good they are "meek" , if they say they they feel like they have the edge over a team then they are "arrogant".

    Bloody Aussie bashes, doesn't matter if they are Number 1 or Number 4 you'll still find some crappy reason to bash em. I bet y'all have never even played cricket at any proper level, bloody arm chair critics.

    Go Australia, Go India, Go Cricket

  • Jmoney90 on October 1, 2010, 19:41 GMT

    Asis Rout, don't forget Australians don't grow up playing on a lot of spinning pitches, let alone spinners like Sangakarra. So try not to be too harsh in your assessment.

    Timelord24, if you're talking about the Ponting-Khan thing, that is not sledging, that is unsportsman-like behaviour. He did it after he got out, if he was taunting him while he was still in it would be fine.

    Bigwonder, A sign of assault, are you kidding? That doesn't even make sense. So in your eyes, Khan is blameless? He is the one who has the bad attitude if he comments to someone when they are walking away. Stop crying victim and face the facts.

  • on October 1, 2010, 18:32 GMT

    Those who are calling it a difficult pitch perhaps they haven't seen the match.It was a slow pitch but scoring 70 runs in 50 overs was poor cricket.Australia should thank the Indians for letting them off with their shoddy indiscipline.Sangakkara effectively disturbed Ojha's length by sweeping him but Australian were happy to play the overt defensive game.Aussies are playing with some kind of fear and it showed in their strike rates.If India manages the Aussie total within 275 India is in with a good chance.

  • bigwonder on October 1, 2010, 18:28 GMT

    Watson took advantage of the free life's he was given - nothing new. Pointing on the other hand did not forget his real attitude, can't control his anger. He should have been reported and banned for pointing a bat at an opposite team member. This was a gesture of aggression, assault and stupidity. But as usual Aussies can get away with murder and this is nothing compared to that.

    LAMO - same story different game.

  • charan200 on October 1, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    good innings from watson........but definetely india will have the edge.........they have to dismiss him him in the early second day..........

  • MasterClass on October 1, 2010, 17:19 GMT

    Notwithstanding my previous comment, India gifted Watto his innings. He should not even be batting had it not been for poor fielding: a dropped regulation catch while on duck, and a let-off by Dhoni while on 37. But admittedly he did put his head down and play well after that. India will be rueing their missed opportunities. A better fielding side would not have let this happen.

  • idian420-30 on October 1, 2010, 17:04 GMT

    why psot not there yet.................................................................

  • asadkum on October 1, 2010, 16:54 GMT

    Mohammad Asad from USA........

    Watson has done really a good job on difficult atmosphere...... What a patient !!!!! So far a brilliant innings ......

  • idian420-30 on October 1, 2010, 16:45 GMT

    Good job Watson.Why over team fight with with every team country and specialy in india.We shame to overself and india .India team need to growup.

  • popcorn on October 1, 2010, 16:42 GMT

    Shane Watson has truly arrived as an opener. He can combine good cricket strokes to get runs and solid defence to frustrate the bowlers.Like Alfie(Justin Langer)

  • timelord24 on October 1, 2010, 16:28 GMT

    i can't believe australians - i mean they are good at "sledging" but when the other team responds or sledges them, they start crying. good god people. i guess they aren't completely to blame because no match referee wants to fine or ban them even when they have committed a legitimate offence.

  • on October 1, 2010, 16:18 GMT

    Today Watson matured from a player with potential to a real deal. A century against the #1 team in their backyard, playing a restrained know that is not natural to his style will be a tonic to get him to the next level in test cricket. He now has to start converting his 90s and 100s to 150s and 200s like many of the indians do. Watch out for him in the 2010s. Not a good sign for England later this year.

  • on October 1, 2010, 16:18 GMT

    I hope Pakistani batsmen were watching the way Watson roughed it out in tough conditions.

  • Karthik_1982 on October 1, 2010, 16:09 GMT

    Watson dropped on 0 & 37.... Ponting caught of No-Ball when still in single digits..... Tim Paine dropped and still not-out......

    Day1 would have been far better IF & ONLY IF all those catches were held. Still India holds the edge and thats the mark of this No1 Indian team.

  • hollandindian on October 1, 2010, 16:01 GMT

    Hats off Watson, though scoring a touch quicker would've have had a better mouse-cat-game; you would score a little quicker with the risk-factor a touch higher.

  • Chapelau on October 1, 2010, 15:55 GMT

    Great kudos to Watson for his patient innings, though clearly he shouldn't have got the chance after being dropped. Australia must be really worried with this nervy performance - and only 70 runs in 49 overs !!! Also, is Ricky suffering from grumpy old man syndrome - seems to get into a lot of scrapes these days?

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on October 1, 2010, 15:50 GMT

    He did well on a really difficult surface. He is a bit of a prat, that doesn't change over night lol BUT he's not playing for a "good behavior medal" is he. He's really played a brilliant test inning and still no doubt has a lot to do yet.

  • Stromeon on October 1, 2010, 15:16 GMT

    Well done Watto! Good work

  • Winfried on October 1, 2010, 15:13 GMT

    Good job, Watson. Cricinfo requires 25 characters to complete this message so here doogiedoogiedoogiewatsongreatdoogie.

  • Razor88 on October 1, 2010, 15:06 GMT

    Amazing Innings ....... Absolutely, he did a better job than dravid these days

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Razor88 on October 1, 2010, 15:06 GMT

    Amazing Innings ....... Absolutely, he did a better job than dravid these days

  • Winfried on October 1, 2010, 15:13 GMT

    Good job, Watson. Cricinfo requires 25 characters to complete this message so here doogiedoogiedoogiewatsongreatdoogie.

  • Stromeon on October 1, 2010, 15:16 GMT

    Well done Watto! Good work

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on October 1, 2010, 15:50 GMT

    He did well on a really difficult surface. He is a bit of a prat, that doesn't change over night lol BUT he's not playing for a "good behavior medal" is he. He's really played a brilliant test inning and still no doubt has a lot to do yet.

  • Chapelau on October 1, 2010, 15:55 GMT

    Great kudos to Watson for his patient innings, though clearly he shouldn't have got the chance after being dropped. Australia must be really worried with this nervy performance - and only 70 runs in 49 overs !!! Also, is Ricky suffering from grumpy old man syndrome - seems to get into a lot of scrapes these days?

  • hollandindian on October 1, 2010, 16:01 GMT

    Hats off Watson, though scoring a touch quicker would've have had a better mouse-cat-game; you would score a little quicker with the risk-factor a touch higher.

  • Karthik_1982 on October 1, 2010, 16:09 GMT

    Watson dropped on 0 & 37.... Ponting caught of No-Ball when still in single digits..... Tim Paine dropped and still not-out......

    Day1 would have been far better IF & ONLY IF all those catches were held. Still India holds the edge and thats the mark of this No1 Indian team.

  • on October 1, 2010, 16:18 GMT

    I hope Pakistani batsmen were watching the way Watson roughed it out in tough conditions.

  • on October 1, 2010, 16:18 GMT

    Today Watson matured from a player with potential to a real deal. A century against the #1 team in their backyard, playing a restrained know that is not natural to his style will be a tonic to get him to the next level in test cricket. He now has to start converting his 90s and 100s to 150s and 200s like many of the indians do. Watch out for him in the 2010s. Not a good sign for England later this year.

  • timelord24 on October 1, 2010, 16:28 GMT

    i can't believe australians - i mean they are good at "sledging" but when the other team responds or sledges them, they start crying. good god people. i guess they aren't completely to blame because no match referee wants to fine or ban them even when they have committed a legitimate offence.