Somerset v Australians, Taunton, 1st Day June 26, 2013

Watson to open in Ashes - Lehmann


Shane Watson will open the batting for Australia in the first Test against England at Trent Bridge, the new national team coach, Darren Lehmann, has said. In an unmistakable indicator of the stamp Lehmann is placing on the team in the wake of the deposed Mickey Arthur, Watson was instantly moved to the top of the order for the tour match against Somerset before a frank declaration that the allrounder would be staying there for the Investec Ashes, runs permitting.

Nottingham will thus be the first time Watson has opened for Australia in a Test match since the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg in November 2011. There has been much debate over Watson's best place in the team ever since, heightened by his lack of runs in posts other than that at the top of the order, where he flourished under Ricky Ponting's captaincy from 2009 to 2011. Lehmann left little doubt he felt it was Watson's best position.

"Shane, yeah, he'll be opening for us," Lehmann said. "That's where we want him to bat and he's done really well for us there and we're quite keen for him to open and to have a big part in the Ashes and obviously make a lot of runs for us and start the innings up well.

"He's been up and down the order but his most success has been as an opener. We hope he gets a big score here for us tomorrow and see how we go. You need good starts to make big scores against a good side so we need him to give us good starts to put pressure on England.

"We've talked about wanting blokes to perform and if you perform you'll have a chance to play in the first Test. We want to give everyone in our squad the opportunity to perform well in the tour games and that's what we're about."

Watson missed the remainder of the 2011-12 summer with hamstring and calf injuries before returning to the Test team at No. 3 in the West Indies, later moving to No. 4. He struggled to balance his batting with the level of bowling required of him by Clarke, and a sequence of injuries, poor batting form and general discontent followed. Lehmann and Clarke have now granted Watson the chance he craved.

At the same time they have also opened up plenty of conjecture about the remainder of the batting order. Cowan is Watson's opening partner at Taunton but Chris Rogers waits in the wings, while David Warner's return to the team after suspension would now appear more likely to be as a middle-order player.

Watson did not bowl on day one of the Somerset fixture but Lehmann said this was intended to allow the other five bowlers chosen the maximum chance of running into form and rhythm ahead of the Tests. "We want to have a look at the other four bowlers, and that's the only reason," Lehmann said. "But he'll bowl next game no dramas."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Roo on July 2, 2013, 4:12 GMT

    @ScottStevo - So Symonds wasn't an allrounder? Or that the Waughs managed to bowl 12,658 balls (2,109 overs) in Test matches isn't considered significant by you? Or that Watto has always been considered an allrounder?

    Simple maths: number of balls per innings bowled - Symonds 51, Watson 65, Steve Waugh 52, Mark 38. As the Waughs played most of their Tests together, that works out at 90 balls (15 overs) they together bowled to support the bowlers, but I guess the 151 wickets that they picked up along the way aren't important to you, but they sure were for Oz.

  • Scott on July 1, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    @zenboomerang, what's your point, that in the past we've had all rounders in the team? Steve and Mark Waugh were first and foremost specialist batsmen - where are you going with this??! Warner bowled a few overs recently, there you go! If your point is that we've used allrounders successfully in the past, like Miller, maybe that's because they were genuine allrounders who would most likely have been selected for both facets of the game, as was Matthews! Close, zenboomerang, it has been our top 4 not firing and a 6th bits'n'pieces player adding nothing with either bat or ball wasting a place in the side that's been our issue. Or are you suggesting we persist with someone like Maxwell? In which case, you'd hardly be in any position to adjudicate whom it is that holds knowledge of this sport, mate. And if you're another who is under the impression we should be playing 5-1-5, then it is you, Sir, lacking understanding of this game.

  • Roo on July 1, 2013, 4:00 GMT

    @ScottStevo - "we still had 6 specialist batsmen with Gilchrist at 7" - You really don't understand much about cricket do you?

    How about Steve & Mark Waugh who were handy bowlers & later Andrew Symonds - add to that we had the leading seamer & spinner in the world at that time. Earlier we had Border & Matthews as handy fill in bowlers. What has blatantly let us down over the last 3 years (as in the 80's) have been the top 5 batters not firing as a unit.

    Lets not forget players like Keith Miller, Bob Simpson, Doug Walters whom as allrounders gave us many decades of superb cricket.

  • Scott on June 29, 2013, 17:13 GMT

    @Australian&@Swingingit, Well then thank goodness you aren't selecting! If you were, we'd be lost before starting. Actually, Aus, you said a 6th batsman wouldn't score any runs as they're a bad bunch! It's all there in black and white, mate! When Watson was opening he was still bowling too and we will need him to bowl. But we don't need a 5th front line bowler and have Watson as a 6th. The balance of the team would be completely out of whack and chances are we wouldn't score enough runs. Faulkner is a terrible choice too. Of all the bowlers in our squad, he's the bottom wrung. Please don't say you're expecting contributions from him with the bat... It's getting difficult to understand how there are actually people thinking we should go with 5 bowlers. Even when our batting line up was pretty much the strongest going we still had 6 specialist batsmen with Gilchrist at 7 and you blokes want to go in with 5 from this lot who are a "bad bunch"? Makes absolutely no sense at all...

  • Robert on June 29, 2013, 16:21 GMT

    @ScottStevo. You will never convince me 6 batsman is the right option for the current squad selected. I also never said our batsman were useless? Fact is boof has said Watson will open and play a role similar to what he did in the past. That means he will not bowl enough to play the traditional role of an all rounder. 3 pacers and lets face it a spinner who is average is too high a risk v a strong England lineup. Clarke wont bowl with a dodgy back. The game just played had 5 bats. Why do you think the selectors went back to Haddin? As for having faith in my countrymen I do! In Haddin and 5 other batsmen in the squad selected. We will have to wait and see who is right come the first test.

  • Erika on June 29, 2013, 15:18 GMT

    Scottstevo does not seem to get it. If Watson is going to bowl why has he not done so in this current tour match? He can't open the batting and do a proper bowling role of an all rounder. We need another all rounder or another bowler. Watson can't bowl enough overs to allow 3 quicks and a spinner to do all the work and Clarke is not going to risk his back. I think the side that has just played might be the right balance. Give Faulkner a go. But someone needs to make way for Bird IMO.

  • Scott on June 29, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    @Australian, I've seen the mess we've put ourselves through with the dodgy allrounders, but if Watson bowls, he is our allrounder and we need a sixth batsman. It's that simple. Assuming that having an extra bowler will increase the likelihood of restricting opposition totals, or taking more wickets doesn't add up, mate. If we can't score 200, we can have 8 bowlers and we'll still lose. It's an old saying, but runs on the board wins matches and we need guys to score them. Implying that adding an extra specialist batsman won't make any difference as they're all useless is harsh as well. We have plenty of guys capable of making decent contributions to the side - have some faith in your countrymen...

  • Geoffrey on June 28, 2013, 12:55 GMT

    Walking wicket. Just watch him trying to play Jimmy after planting that front pad in front of off stump. The English bowlers will be collectively licking their chops.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    Is watson going to ball. If he isn't going to ball, then he shouldn't be in the side. His batting form isn't good enough for a place in the side, but since he is a swing bowler his bowling can be very effective. If watson doesn't bowl, then Henriques should be in the side - plus his recent form is much better. One 90 against a county side doesn't prove much.

  • Robert on June 28, 2013, 12:01 GMT

    @scottstevo. Regarding the 5-1-5 option. I don't know if you have been following Australian cricket lately. Since the debacle of Adelaide V SA where bowlers had to do an overwhelming job to get a draw and then rested for a critical test, Australia have gone for a 5 bat 4 bowler 1 all rounder and keeper for the tests since. Watson playing in some of those as another batsman. Considering the all rounders have failed miserably and our batting would not change I suggest playing a bowler instead of an all rounder as our current bowlers are out performing the all rounders. Whether a batsman plays so you have more runs to play with or a bowler plays so you have less runs to get I don't really see the difference? Considering the 6th batsman to be picked would be the 6th of a bad bunch I doubt he will add to the score much so hence a 5-1-5 team. I am also not asking for anyone to agree with me just stating my opinion.