Pakistan v Australia, 1st MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Lord's, 2nd day July 14, 2010

Watson's surprising honour

He began in the middle order before finding his place as an opening batsman, but on the second day at Lord's it was all about his bowling

Nobody would have blamed Shane Watson if he'd quit bowling years ago. His body was so brittle that every time he ran in a breakdown seemed more likely than a breakthrough. But after each snapped hamstring or stress fracture, every torn calf or wonky hip, he would smile, as if in denial, and insist that he could heal and return stronger. Now he's on the Lord's honour board after taking his first Test five-wicket haul.

It's an achievement not to be sneezed at; with Watson's luck he'd probably dislocate his vertebrae in the process. Shane Warne never took five at the home of cricket. Dennis Lillee didn't manage it either. Nor, for that matter, did Jeff Thomson, who thinks Watson's bowling is rubbish and once famously described him as "not an allrounder's arsehole".

Watson will never be a strike bowler but in swinging conditions he is a valuable option for Ricky Ponting. And the ball swung today. He attacked the stumps and had both Akmal brothers trapped lbw before he'd conceded a run, although Shahid Afridi soon saw to it that Watson's economy rate ballooned.

Within ten deliveries, his figures of 2 for 0 became 2 for 30. But Watson continued to pitch the ball up, allowing it to curve, and he was rewarded when Afridi inevitably skied a catch. Watson's most impressive wicket came when he curled an inswinger in to bowl the left-hander Salman Butt, who was the only Pakistan batsman to show any real fight.

At that stage, Watson was stuck on four victims and he was forced to wait for his chance at a fifth, two rain delays sending him inside to gaze up at the honour boards, tantalisingly close to joining the elite group. Looming large was the presence of Keith Miller, who Watson says continues to inspire him, and when play resumed he was determined to etch his name into history.

An edge to slip from Danish Kaneria and the job was done. Watson didn't bother with the now traditional ball-raise on completing a five-wicket collection, instead running off to pad up for his primary job as the team's opening batsman. Despite being caught in the cordon for 31, Watson was all smiles after a performance that surprised him as much as anyone.

"I had my eye on the batting side of things to try and get a hundred at Lord's in my first Test here but unfortunately that wasn't meant to be," Watson said. "To be able to get it as a bowler is going to take a while for me to get my head around. Over the last few days leading up to this Test I worked really hard on a few things on my bowling ... the last three or four months my bowling hasn't been exactly where I wanted it. For it to come together today has been brilliant."

In the Lord's nets this week he has especially been working on swing, which he can achieve but without much consistency. Today, the cloudy conditions helped him immensely. He hadn't bowled at all in Australia's previous four limited-overs games, due to general soreness. When his Test career began, he was a No. 7 batsman and third seamer, and striking the right mix between his new positions is a challenge.

"Opening the batting, my most important role within the team is to be able to score runs," he said. "My bowling has probably been a little bit on the backburner... my position in the team has changed quite significantly from what it was a couple of years ago. I'm still trying to find the perfect balance of being able to open the batting and bowl."

For the time being, he'll settle for an unexpected privilege. There's a new honour board in the visitors' dressing room at Lord's, created for neutral Tests, and Warren Bardsley and Charles Kelleway are up there for their batting in 1912 against South Africa. Shane Watson is the first bowler to join them.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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  • dummy4fb on July 15, 2010, 10:00 GMT

    chris gayle is way better than afridi in tests, windies suck because of the new players coming through for both bowling and batting, pakistan suck because of the new batting coming through, asif and the new aamer is a very good bowling combo though

  • manihammad on July 15, 2010, 9:47 GMT

    lol so here we go again. an inexperienced and ill tempered Pakistan batting line up gives a part time bowler like Shane Watson 5 wickets and suddenly he is better that Lillee, Warne or Thomson.

  • VipulPatki on July 15, 2010, 9:44 GMT

    I thought he bowled really well, as did all other bowlers. Guess Jeff Thompson never had a shortage of good fast bowlers, that's why he is so uncharitable towards Watson. Like other Indian fans, I would love to have somebody with his abilities in the Indian team.

  • dummy4fb on July 15, 2010, 9:34 GMT

    its always nice to see him ,when he is in full flow and always delievers for the team ,,well done watto ,and i really feel sorry for mr broad ,he's always very hard for asian block.

  • Fan84 on July 15, 2010, 9:25 GMT

    WTSON has always and continuing to do his job as a great all rounder, at times when the side is in difficulty,it is watson who comes to the rescue,, ponting always calls him great ,, not sure why some hate him,, his strike rate is 150+ and his bowling speed is 140+,, he is gem and Asset to the side ,,

  • JosInTownsville on July 15, 2010, 9:04 GMT

    Congrats Watto......... you finally cracked it and showed em(and yourself) what you can do... Hilfo played great here in Townsville for Australia A... missed his form when he left, but no doubt it will shine threw over there. Good Luck Team and again.. Congrats Watto :)

  • jonesy2 on July 15, 2010, 8:43 GMT

    @JB77. your right afridi should stick to the short form and let the proper cricketers play the proper cricket. he is what chris gayle is to the windies. both of them are the reasons their teams are so terrible.

  • dummy4fb on July 15, 2010, 8:41 GMT

    Test Cricket played by Pakistanis is the most stupid way to play cricket.Waqar Yunis and Afridi being very aggressive and not teaching this to their players then they both should be fired because all they are doing is saving their own job and not teaching to kids how to be aggressive so bowlers don't get upper hand.

    You should never be a defensive player, if you don't attack the ball then not only the ball will attack you but all the fielders will also attack you. Play like Afridi, Umar Akmal, Michael Hussy and Watson, Katich, Butt, Amir or you must get out of the International cricket. You have no place in cricket if you do not have aggressive ideas to play. Plan o hit a boundary on every ball but you stop or defend at last second if the ball is difficult to hit a boundary. There is no need to practice hitting sixes at all unless you are sure you will make it over the boundary line.

  • popcorn on July 15, 2010, 8:30 GMT

    Jeff Thomson can jump in the lake for all I care. Shane Watson has ALWAYS been Ricky Ponting's "go -to" man, and he NEVER failed to deliver.He richly deserves to have his name up there on the Honours board at Lord's.

  • Chris_P on July 15, 2010, 8:16 GMT

    Well done Watto. I was amongst the doubters who thought your bowling was well short of test class, but this past 12 months, from what I have seen both live and on tv, it has improved greatly. I think the fact you have less bulk, and are clearly more flexible has contributed and anyone who can swing the ball at some pace will always get success. I think your long term future may well be down the order, but who knows what will happen. certainly there is some talent already lining up for the middle order positions so maybe you'll stay at opener. Thumbs up for a terrific bowling perfomance.

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