Katich revels in his second coming
It was fitting that Simon Katich was named Australia's Player of the Match in their 150-run win over Pakistan at Lord's. He is the team's reigning Test Player of the Year, he has scored more runs than any other player in Test cricket over the past two years, and there hasn't been a Test since Headingley last August in which he has failed to post at least a half-century.
But despite his remarkable consistency, match honours have tended to elude Katich. Only twice in his career has he been named Player of the Match; once in Bridgetown in June 2008, in the third match of his comeback to the Test side, and at Lord's this week for his innings of 80 and 83. This time he even had to share the award with Salman Butt.
Not that such trinkets mean much to Katich. He's spent long enough out of the Test team over the past decade to appreciate his position. When he was recalled at the age of 32 on the tour of the Caribbean two years ago and turned into a makeshift opener due to an injury to Matthew Hayden, Katich knew that he had to grab every opportunity and treat each game as if it would be his last.
"That's been a big part of my philosophy since I got back in," Katich said after the Lord's win. "I knew it was going to be tough to get back in at my age. I've just tried to really enjoy it because it probably wasn't expected. From that point of view I haven't put too much pressure on myself and I've just tried to enjoy each Test match and enjoy winning Test matches.
"That's part of our tradition of playing in the baggy green is to win Test matches. I've been through both eras of Australian cricket, where we were so dominant for so long and now the goal is to get us back up to No. 1. Hopefully we're on our way to doing that."
The cricket writer Ray Robinson once wrote of Bill Lawry that if he wasn't married to his wicket, they were at least going steady. Katich has been in a stable relationship with his for the past two years. His shuffle from leg to off is not the sort of move young players are taught, but in doing so he protects his stumps - he has been bowled only four times from 51 innings since his comeback.
He eschews the rule of playing in the 'V' and his wagon wheel at Lord's reveals as much. In his second-innings 83, he scored not a single run straight back past the bowler. Instead, he thrived on flicks through midwicket, cover drives, edgy cuts and singles squirted behind square leg. He'd be a hopeless baseball player; every shot would end up in foul territory.
But his technique punishes bowlers who aim too straight and in swinging conditions, like the teams were confronted with at Lord's, that can be a common error. There was no century for Katich, but against a Pakistan attack that found it easy to curl the ball in the air, his match tally was the difference for Australia.
"Day one was probably as trying a conditions as any of us have faced in Test cricket for a while," the captain Ricky Ponting said. "The fact the game is stop-start is never easy for batsman, the ball swung all of our innings and probably most of their innings as well. So the return we got out of Simon in both innings was fantastic."
And finally, Katich was rewarded for his efforts.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo