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December 3, 2013
Australia's No. 3 batsman Shane Watson freely admits he will need to carry a far greater burden in Adelaide, both as a top-order run-maker and also a change bowler, on what is shaping to be an exceedingly dry and unhelpful surface for the fast men.
Watson struggled to bat with his usual presence in Brisbane, an understandable problem for a batsman who had not made a first-class appearance since the fifth Test of the previous Ashes series in England. But he said there was now no excuse for him to be a peripheral player as the hosts attempt to take a stranglehold on the series by going 2-0 up in as many matches.
"Going into the Test match in Brisbane, I had a week or so to be able to build up my Test-match batting and my mental capacity, so that was certainly my biggest challenge," he said. "I'm going to be in a better place now. I wasn't able to concentrate for a long enough period of time to be able to bat what I need to in a Test match. It was unfortunate that I wasn't able to adapt my game quick enough with not playing any four-day cricket or domestic cricket in the lead-up. That's part of being in international cricket. You have to adapt as quickly as you can, so hopefully I can do that in this Test match straight away."
The other concern for Watson in Brisbane surrounded his recovery from a hamstring strain that had left his status as a bowler in doubt. Ultimately the telling spells of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon allowed Watson the luxury of bowling only two overs for the match, but he agreed far more would be expected on Adelaide's drop-in pitch, which the ground staff have dried noticeably to attempt to recreate the ground's traditional five-day deterioration.
"It's going to be a really important part - the amount of bowling I can do to help out our quicks," Watson said. "If it's what we think it's going to be, the wicket will be flat and the bowlers will potentially have to bowl many more overs compared to Brisbane to bowl the English out. That's a really important role, especially with back-to-back Test matches and how important it is for our quicks to be able to get through this Test, bowl well and pull up well.
"We certainly know we've got the bowlers to be able to exploit that Perth wicket, so I know how important it is for me to pick up the slack. The bowlers certainly looked after me physically in the first Test, they bowled beautifully well and I wasn't really called on to bowl, but I know this is my turn to be able to put my hand up and bowl the overs to look after those guys as well."
Australia find themselves in an unfamiliar perch, leading an Ashes series for the first time since 2006. Add to this the fact that they have followed each of their past two Test match wins over England in 2009 and 2010 with immediate defeat int he next match, and Watson acknowledged the challenge of keeping the team level-headed and focused on the task at hand.
"It is a different situation to be in, there's no doubt," Watson said. "The last three series we've played in, whether it's been England holding on for a draw or winning the first Test, certainly we come in at a different perspective going into the second game. But we know how important it's going to be to start really well and keep the momentum going. We know how quickly it can change and how quickly the series can change if we don't give it everything we've got and be totally switched on from ball one.
"It's certainly a nice position to be in compared to the last three series I've been involved in but I know how quickly it can change. The English don't like losing, they haven't lost very often, especially to us, over the last three series so they certainly will be coming together to go whatever they can to get back into the series."
Pivotal to Australia's pursuit of another win will be the fitness of Michael Clarke, and Watson said the captain would be fine to train on match eve after resting a rolled ankle two days out from the Test. "It was more precautionary today," he said. "Michael batted beautifully in the first Test, so his preparation was always going to be very good anyway. I know the medical staff is very confident that it was just giving him a break today, and he'll be training flat out tomorrow ready to go for the Test."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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