New Zealand v Australia, 2nd Test, Hamilton, 3rd day March 29, 2010

Simple Simon knows his limits


Simon Katich hasn't so much been flying under the radar as crawling under it. His almost six-hour century sent the odd punter to sleep on the Seddon Park hill on a dozy Monday away from the office but it was the perfect innings for the circumstances. Australia wanted an unassailable lead and Katich set them on the path towards it with a hundred that was as painstaking as Ross Taylor's was breathtaking.

If he turns out to be the match-winner, it will be well-deserved. Nothing tells the story of Katich's reliability like his triumph on Allan Border Medal night last month. The Australian players select their best contributors after every Test and Katich's team-mates didn't grant him the maximum three votes in any of the 14 matches during the award period. Still, he was named Test Player of the Year, a triumph of attrition over attraction.

There's every chance he will get the three votes after this game. His 88 in the first innings saved Australia's blushes while his top-order friends threw their wickets away, and his 106 in the second has given them a strong chance of victory. As usual he was overshadowed, first when Shane Watson made 65 of the 85-run opening stand and then when Michael Hussey proved more fluent in the early stages of their partnership. Katich didn't find the boundary until his 138th delivery, when he drove cleanly through extra cover and made viewers wonder why he hadn't tried it earlier.

In backyards across Australia few children imagine themselves as Katich, shuffling across their plastic stumps and squirting singles to square leg. The handful who do will at least never lose their tennis ball over the neighbour's fence. It's a method that has worked for Katich since his return to the side in 2008 and the proof is in a list of all-time averages for Test openers. Of every player who has opened in at least 20 innings, Katich's average of 55.08 puts him sixth on the tally, behind legends like Jack Hobbs and Len Hutton. Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer, the bar against which modern Australian openers are measured, sit 13th and 17th.

Fittingly, the only Australian above Katich is Bob Simpson, the man who Katich credits as having helped him overcome a technical flaw four years ago when he was striving to regain his place in the Test team. Since Katich won a position as an opener on the tour of the West Indies two years ago, he has been Australia's leading run scorer, well clear of Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting. It was a lack of consistency that cost him his place after a disappointing Ashes tour in 2005 and a more mature, more relaxed Katich has been on display following his return.

"I stick to my limitations," Katich said after his 347-minute innings. "I know the limitations of my game and given that the game was in the balance I didn't want to take any undue risks, and make sure that I set a platform for the rest of the team. When you do bat at the top of the order it's easy to think someone else will get the runs, but you've just got to make sure you get out there and lay the foundations just in case that doesn't happen."

That solid base was built before lunch in a session that featured the equivalent of almost 33 overs of dot balls. In the first over after the break, Katich struck two consecutive boundaries having managed three in his previous 176 deliveries, and even Aleem Dar and Asad Rauf were wondering what the batsman had eaten at lunch.

"The umpires were sort of joking that I might have got a bit ahead of myself," Katich said. "They said, 'What's happened?' That was when I got to about 60. Even they noticed it. They said, 'Is that the same bloke down there?' I did have a bit more fun after 50, that's for sure. The first 50 wasn't great but after that, from 50 onwards I felt like I played quite well."

He did, and there were even a couple of aerial drives down the ground that jolted the spectators out of their slumber. Perhaps Katich's team-mates will wake up as well, and Australia's Test Player of the Year will finally be their Man of the Match.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 30, 2010, 0:09 GMT

    In spite of all his runs, the Kat's proudest moment is the time he got Pup by the throat after Australia won the dead rubber against SA at the SCG in 2009, when Pup tried to make him sing the team song so he could leave early to have dinner with the Pringle. Katich = Australian hero. Seriously, he should be test captain when Punter retires in 2017.

  • Dummy4 on March 29, 2010, 13:45 GMT

    SSP28 and which coaching manual would that be? Have you actually watched Katich bat?

  • Ian on March 29, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    Katto's return to the Baggy Green is a testament of determination and hard work! He is a tough bloke and his game plan is patient and cautious but he doesn't need a heads up to throw the blade and launch a big shot if he has to. He is an excellent test cricketer to watch and seeing as he achieved a ton against the Black Caps a few years back with the old regime, it's been brilliant to see him grab another one with our emerging Squad. His consistency is inspiring to watch and he is silently the anchor of our side! It seems that he is nearing the achievement what Steve Waugh always spoke of and spent his whole career exploring...your natural game. I think Katto has nearly worked it out and he sticks to his plans and backs himself. What a Champ and I hope he keeps it up, Katto the Crab. Good article again Brydon

  • Sidhanta on March 29, 2010, 10:57 GMT

    A cricketer worth watching. He is one of the few remaining from that 'ERA'

  • sridhar on March 29, 2010, 10:03 GMT

    If Australia win this match as they well might,then surely the man to be thanked has to be Simon Katich. But Katich is really the unsung hero of Australian cricket. He has been the leading scorer for Australia this summer and even earlier and has definitely spared Australia a number of blushed in recent months. We need to remember that Ponting over the last year has not been the dominant force he was, not too long ago . Watson has been more stylish and made a lot of runs but it has been the ungainly , shuffler across stumps, interspersing his more boring moments with brilliant cover drives, who has kept Australia afloat. His coach Simpson too played to his limitations and blunted Hall and Griffith at their very best, but people invariably talked about Oneill who was pure delight to watch but much less successful. Similarly the Clarkes and the Watsons are more watchable but Katich is more durable and normally he scores at a much more rapid pace than he did this time around. Sridhar

  • SURAJ on March 29, 2010, 9:27 GMT

    Katich is a workman like player. No talent what-so-ever.Just bats straight from the coaching manual.

  • Dummy4 on March 29, 2010, 9:07 GMT

    gr8 display by katich once again. In the contemporary game (not modern), T20 lets the flamboyant type to hog all the glory. Like Martyn, katich is an unsung hero who has been there for the team since his return. He's provided the basic foundation always if not the start. We have hughes or watson to take care of that. But once australia cross 50 on the board, kato seems to take over slowly, gently and keeps one end safe through all the harsh conditions. T20 seems to take away the credit required for test batsmen and genuine bowlers. The conditions are too flat and doesnt demand concentration and footwork unlike test cricket. Its very disheartening.

    But anyways cheers to Katich and Australia, u bloody beauty!!

  • Rajaram on March 29, 2010, 8:38 GMT

    While exciting players like Philip Hughes,Shane Watson,Mathew Hayden,Virender Sehwag MAY blaze away,they are not always reliable.It is a universal opinion that a solid foundation, a good first wicket partnership puts the opposition on the backfoot. Openers like Simon Katich and Justin Langer are perfectly grounded,reliable,, dependable,consistent,accumulators, who are oblivious to what is happening at the other end. but in a the age -old fable, the tortoise came first, not the hare.Philip Hughes and Shane watson outscored Simon Katich, but he has always stood solid as a rock.

  • Thanh on March 29, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    All credit for Simon,

    Thanks the author for this excellent work to comment on Simon's performance. For me, I love watching him playing as I do know that he is the only one who knows how to keeps the wicket in any circumtance after the top orders down. For Simon, he may not be as aggressive as David (in 20/20) or Andrew and Shane who can quickly get the test hundred but he is very consistent with the bat. I agree with the author that he should have been awarded the Allan Border Medal as Ricky and Michael. All credit for Simon! Welldone!

  • Ragavendran on March 29, 2010, 7:08 GMT

    Katich is the most underrated and valuable player in this Australian set up. He is the hallmark of consistency and yet manages to stay out of the limelight. He has been so reliable in this period of transition for the Aussies, such a great & tough character. He is right up there with the modern Aussie greats! Love you Katich, oh boy from the old school!

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