Pak v Aus, 2nd MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Headingley, 2nd day July 22, 2010

Shane Watson swings to career-best haul


Shane Watson was Australia's best bowler in swinging conditions at Lord's and he has been the most dangerous at Headingley. With all due respect to Watson, that is a problem for Australia. Their opening batsman cannot be expected to carry the pace attack and then jog inside, pad up and battle the new ball, especially given Watson's injury history.

Instead of spending the final stages in the field planning ahead to his innings, Watson was striving to bowl Pakistan out himself, and when he went out to bat his concentration wasn't quite there. Within 20 minutes he had fallen to a shot that a Test opener shouldn't play that early, and was bowled trying to dab a late cut through the cordon off Umar Amin's dibbly-dobbly part-timers.

Batting is his primary role in this team, but his 6 for 33 in Leeds was an example of fine swing bowling and it took him to 11 wickets for the series. Between them, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger have nine. And if they keep bowling like they did on the first two days of this Test, Johnson and Bollinger in particular will struggle to add to that tally.

There were lessons to be learnt from the method used by Pakistan's swing trio after they curled their way through Australia on the first day. Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer especially were constantly threatening when they pitched the ball up and encouraged it to swing, perhaps a few curving away and then a surprise in-ducker.

They understood that Headingley is a venue where glancing to the skies is of more value to a fast bowler than looking down at the surface. But when confronted on the second morning by overcast conditions similar to those experienced by Pakistan a day earlier, the Australians instead focused on the middle of the pitch and banged the ball in.

Rarely will they be blessed with more favourable circumstances in which to swing the ball. Asif operates in the low 130kph region and he proved that speed was not important, yet Bollinger and Johnson bent their backs, charged in and were surprised when their efforts were picked off with ease.

The only wicket either of them collected came when Umar Akmal drove unnecessarily outside off and edged behind off a Johnson delivery that moved away with the natural angle. Perhaps he'd watched his own bowlers and assumed the ball would swing in, but recently Johnson's seam and radar have both been scrambled.

Hilfenhaus at least adjusted his method after leaking early runs and looked threatening at times. But it was Watson who stopped the Test from drifting towards a position from which even Pakistan couldn't lose. His two wickets in the over after lunch were decisive.

First it was Kamran Akmal, who edged to slip from a lovely delivery that moved away, and then Aamer, who padded up to one that angled across him and swung back to straighten down the line. Replays suggested the ball would have missed off stump but to the naked eye it looked out.

It was excellent bowling, full enough to allow the ball to swing and straight enough that the batsmen needed to play. At the other end, Bollinger started the next over short of a length - twice. Lessons learnt by Watson, first from the Pakistan bowling effort and then from his own success, were not being taken in by others.

"They got their length very right the majority of the time," Watson said of the Pakistan attack. "The length I try to bowl is that fuller sort of length and try and get some lbws and bowleds if it's not swinging that much anyway. But it's definitely something that I did take out of how they bowled, because they did bowl perfectly under those conditions in the first innings.

"I have been lucky that the conditions have suited me a little bit better. The conditions have swung and it's probably helped me and Ben out more than someone like Mitch or Dougie, who probably bowl that little bit quicker and have probably less chance of swinging the ball."

That is true of their natural bowling styles, and perhaps it won't be an issue on dusty Indian pitches and at home for the Ashes, but the best practitioners adapt to the conditions. One of the greatest, the Pakistan coach Waqar Younis, was surprised that Watson was the only one of the Australians who made full use of the swing.

If his batsmen end up chasing 150, he'll be hoping Australia's strike bowlers continue along the same lines. And lengths.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2010, 9:17 GMT

    my suggestion to australia for the ashes - get phillip hughes or phil jaques back and ask one of them to open the batting with Simo. Drop North and get Watto back to his rightful position of no.6 - that way Aus will have Watson, Haddin , Smith and Johnson at 6,7,8, and 9 - a superb lower-middle order. This way Watson can play more freely at 6 and employ the role of Gilchrist in the good ol' Aus team. He can also concentrate more on his bowling and become an effective all-rounder. Lets face it - the experiment with him as opener will not last forever. it is time to get him back to 6. CA, are u listening?

  • Kartik on July 23, 2010, 7:10 GMT

    This should serve as a timely reminder to the Australian selectors that they need to put Watson back at No.6, keep North as the reserve batsman and play a specialist opener alongside Katich. The India tour would be the perfect time to blood in Usman Khawaja.

  • KEN on July 23, 2010, 7:09 GMT

    I agree with the idea of moving Watson down the order, but I don't believe Hughes is the right man for the opening job & Jacques makes every aspect of batting look difficult. Seems like it has to be Rogers. Our biggest issue is the lack of bowling talent capable of playing at this level. Johnson, Hilfenhaus & Bollinger are all borderline, and really not good enough.

  • Mohammad on July 23, 2010, 5:59 GMT

    Pakistan batting is very weak and cannot be up to the mark without inclusion of Mohammad Yousuf & Younus Khan. PCP chairman Ijaz Butt did not send any instruction to Cricket board & even not raised an application for sports visa of these two batting heroes. They have two reasons not including them; they are not in game since long back & Newcomers will feel bad. Because if both Ys come they will take 3rd down and 4th down position it means Azhar & Amin will have to sit out. These two reasons have been raised in a management meeting in England through some officials. I think both Yousuf & Younis have a lot of playing experiences at international levels. They not need more match practices. But how they bad they will be feeling after so much contributions to Pakistan team. Take out Umar Akmal & retain Azhar Ali. Team Management are playing key role not to including they two Ys. They are giving false & fake reasons to Ijaz Butt & putting their level best to convince him.

  • Bryn on July 23, 2010, 5:38 GMT

    him and hussey should swap positions in the batting order.

  • natmastak on July 23, 2010, 5:10 GMT

    despite aus's batting comeback, i want pak to win for shear talent of their young team.they need an inspirational win.

  • Nick on July 23, 2010, 4:22 GMT

    Shane Watson is an amazing cricketer & definitely the most precious for Oz.Frequent injuries hampered his carrer in the early stages,but now he has surely come of age & the last couple of years has been magnificient for him.Though his batting has not been upto the mark in this series but I would stiil love him to open the batting with Katich because he is an attacking player & his combination with Katich is pretty lethal.

  • Sumeet on July 23, 2010, 3:31 GMT

    What is North doing in this line-up? With all due respect to him, I think Aussies are better served having Watson at 6 and Hughes to open. Given the fragile body that Watson has, it will be no surprise to me if he breaks down sooner rather than later

  • shekhar on July 23, 2010, 3:28 GMT


  • Dylan on July 23, 2010, 0:47 GMT

    He bowled well, and I think now is the time that they move him down the order and bring Hughes in to open. You don't want him to loose his spark with the ball in place of his batting consistency, and if he stays at the top of the order, that is what will happen.

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