Worcestershire v Australians, New Road, 1st day July 2, 2013

Watson and Rogers make positive start


Australians 340 for 4 (Watson 109, Rogers 75, Clarke 62, Cowan 58) v Worcestershire

Australia's last great opening pair of Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden were unearthed only when Michael Slater was dropped for a combination of poor form and wayward behaviour. Twelve years later, Shane Watson and Chris Rogers have been thrown together as the most visible on-field consequence of David Warner's suspension and Darren Lehmann's arrival as coach. On the evidence of their opening union at New Road, this might just become another triumph out of the chaos.

Even if the modesty of Worcestershire's attack is accounted for, Watson made batting look easy during his domineering century before lunch and Rogers provided an immediately reassuring sight at the other end. Their first stand tallied 170 in all, precisely half of the Australians' 340 before rain brought an early conclusion to a chilly day. Fluency came less easily to Ed Cowan and the captain Michael Clarke, though both passed 50 before falling prey to run-outs.

Having wrought similar destruction in his first match restored to the top of the batting order against Somerset, Watson crashed the Worcs bowlers to all parts of the ground without ever looking like he was taking undue risks. Tellingly, it was Watson's first hundred at first-class level since his most recent Test century, against India at Mohali in October 2010. The confidence imbued by Lehmann's decision to publicly announce him as an Ashes opener as early as last week in Taunton has returned Watson to something like his imperious best.

Rogers played with far less extravagance, but appeared an ideal partner, rotating the strike and leaving the ball with precision. Their unbeaten stand meant that Cowan, made redundant as an opening batsman after 18 months in the job, remained padded up in the tourists' viewing area for the whole of the morning.

When he did appear following Watson's exit, Cowan found the going altogether more difficult, confirming the impression that he will struggle to impose himself on a bowling attack, a skill usually expected of a No. 3. Any hard decisions about the shape of Australia's batting line-up can be expected to be made this week. Along with Lehmann and Rod Marsh, the national selector John Inverarity is also in Worcester, ready to submit his casting vote if required.

A correct call at the toss by Clarke had given the visitors first use of a friendly, even-paced surface. This allowed Rogers and Watson to commence the opening partnership identified by Clarke and Lehmann as Australia's best means by which to blunt England's new-ball battery next week at Nottingham and beyond.

Wearing the Australia coat of arms for the first time since his one Test match in 2008, Rogers began a little nervously. He was perilously close to falling lbw to Charles Morris, making his first-class debut for Worcs, and his first few runs were snicked rather than struck. But Australia have employed Rogers for his record of making consistent runs, not the manner in which they arrive, and he was soon finding his stride, scoring at a steady trot with the occasional edge here and there.

Watson had not taken part in the Australians' second innings against Somerset, following a brazen 90 on day two that expressed his joy at returning to the top of the order more succinctly than any interview could. He continued on his merry way, gliding the first ball of the match to the backward point boundary and thereafter playing his shots with complete conviction, bordering on disdain.

Several of Watson's drives scorched through fields that did not have time to move, while the left-armer Jack Shantry had one delivery deposited beyond the sight screen with rare crispness - his preference for around the wicket provided Watson with an amiable angle by which to flick through the leg side. It was with one such stroke that Watson reached three figures, drawing strong applause from a plentiful crowd and warm congratulations from his new batting partner.

The afternoon did not quite find Watson in the same flowing form of the morning, and he added only another seven runs to his lunch tally before swinging an offbreak by Moeen Ali to deep-backward square leg. Rogers reached 50 and continued on with increasing certainty, making it a surprise when he popped an off-side catch from a leading edge off Shantry.

Cowan clattered one six off Moeen but was otherwise circumspect, while Clarke negotiated his first ball with a thick inside edge and had trouble locating the middle of his bat for some time. Together they negotiated 38 balls without a run during the hour before tea. The sequence was broken by a fortunate Clarke boundary, edged wide of the slip cordon, but both batsmen would fall short of the substantial scores they desired.

Clarke was short of his ground when the stumps were hit from square leg by Alexei Kervezee. It appeared Cowan's call, and Clarke looked notably miffed to depart in such a manner. Cowan followed his captain to the pavilion a little more than five overs later, stumbling in mid-pitch to turn a tight-ish run into an ignominious exit.

Steve Smith and Phillip Hughes did not have much time to get established before the showers arrived, but they were batting in such a comfortable scenario because Watson and Rogers had excelled in the morning. England will be taking note.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H on July 4, 2013, 17:01 GMT

    @Meety to be fair, two of the three grounds used for the Champions Trophy have tended to turn for a while. Cardiff always turns (England played two spinners back in 2009) and while the Oval used to be fast, it hasn't been in years. In fact, back in 2009 it was, I'm sure you'll remember, Australia leaving out Hauritz at the Oval for an all-pace attack that cost them dearly.

    Not sure the plan to play Swann and Panesar in tandem was ever seriously considered by the management (although the press seemed to talk it up, especially after both teams toured India with varying levels of success). Conditions here will always favour seam and playing two spinners means just two seamers or five bowlers (which didn't work well for us at Headingley last time round).

    With Root being a decent off-spinner (certainly a better option than Trott's medium pace) I can't imagine Flower and co would have gone down that road even if Panesar's form had merited it. But there was a lot of talk about it, I agree.

  • Andrew on July 4, 2013, 0:03 GMT

    @H_Z_O on (July 3, 2013, 10:33 GMT) - "...Doubt we'll see England "producing" spinning tracks..." - I have heard some 'buzz' for a while (a yr or so) that the pitches will be drier than normal (even allowing for less rain). I believe there was (before the County season started), a plan to play Panesar & Swann in tandem in the Ashes. I think Panesar's lack of form has kaboshed that strategy - but I was bemused about the Champ Trophy pitches for this time of year & IMO starts to lend weight towards the drier pitches. The one good thing about drier pitches for Ozzy fans - is that it should lead to better reverse swing opportunities & I doubt England will leave their outfields as long as India did recently - so Starc will really be an old ball menace - maybe!

  • H on July 3, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    @Meety Pretty much my take on Faulkner too. An attacking option if you're chasing the series from behind and need a win or want to play two spinners without having just the two specialist seamers (and risking an injury to someone like Pattinson).

    Doubt we'll see England "producing" spinning tracks but Old Trafford does tend to turn a bit and during the Champions Trophy the Oval looked dry and placid. But I'd be surprised if Trent Bridge is anything but swing-friendly and Pattinson will enjoy the conditions. Your batsmen just need to give him (and the others) some runs.

  • Dummy4 on July 3, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    How anyone can support Warner's inclusion is a little beyone me as Sunil_Batra pointed out he's had precisely one innings of any note and he's proven himself as a head case. Why not go with Smith who has been looking better and better. Personally I'd even consider going with an extra bowler since that's where the team's real strength lies.

  • Ash on July 3, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    cowan appalling once again. 2 runouts, slowing the run rate, and running the best batsmen out. surely he can't be in the ashes team.

  • Ross on July 3, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    Folks are being negative to Cowan, i like the guy but to put it bluntly Cowan probably didn't show enough in this gameto push out Khawaja for the number 3 spot or Hughes out of 5, I think everyone can agree Khawaja has waited long enough while Hughes and Cowan have been given chances over and over again. In terms of Watson as I mentioned else where it was'nt long ago he was doing the same in the India warm up games, but he gets his place but still needs to perform to keep his spot from Warner. I am loving what i am seeing between Watson and Rogers, its a match made in heaven.

  • Rahul on July 3, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    What is sad Amith is that if there had been any real forsight, we'd have had Khawaja in the team at least since Ponting was gone, but preferrably sooner. If he'd been there consistently since Ponting had retired, he'd have played seven straight Tests by now and would at least have built up a little experience.It's also frustrating that Hughes keeps being moved. I find it amazing that all these "coaches" cannot decide where he should bat - open, first drop, middle order, lower order. It is ridiculous. The only thing more ridiculous is that there is talk that Warner should bat six. I mean seriously, he has one amazing innings where he bats through and now people suddenly think he's gonna be a Border/Waugh/Hussey innings saver in the lower order? Crazy…

  • Lewis on July 3, 2013, 8:37 GMT

    I don't think Cowan shouldn't be discarded because he's slow.But do we want a grafted 30 from our number three after a bright opening partnership, slowly allowing the openers to get on top?Rogers is basically a better version of Cowan, with more proven form, and in better form. We don't need two of them in the top three. Khawaja has to be 3 with Hughes at 5. Khawaja is a natual 3 at shield level so that's what he does and he can take his game to a new level if given the chance. Hughes is on his last chance and i hope he comes through. Watson will be a gun for us.

  • Amith on July 3, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    I think boof is making all the right moves with our batting, Clarke should move up to 4, Khawaja is our best 3 and should be there in the first test given he bats at that position for the Bulls and Blues previously and Watson and Rogers are our best openers, top stuff boof. I also like the idea of Warner at 6 like Gilly used to be. Khawaja has waited 6 months under Arthur to get a game which is no way to treat one of our best young talents and espeically when we need quality batsman. Punter endorsed him as his replacement and so did mr.cricket and hopefully with boof and Clarke making the calls he will get a run similar to what Cowan and Hughes have had. So my batting lineup would be Watson, Rogers, Khawaja, Clarke, Hughes, Warner, Haddin. Cowan may have run himself out of the team when he ran Clarke out.

  • Chris on July 3, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    anyone else consider the Australian warm up matches devoid of a real challenge? this attack and the Somerset attack arent at full capacity, especially the Somerset attack. Not sure if there might be a false sense of security for the Aussies, lets hope so because the batting looks in decent shape.

    I remember looking at the stats of the bowlers in England's pre-test warm up matches against India last winter and its was similar, a few debuts, very little FC experience etc. Jonny Bairstow hit a hundred in about 60 balls in one match and yet we lost the first game of the test series.

    who knows how it will play out, cant blame anyone, the counties will be looking towards 20/20 and don't want to risk injuries while giving young players some exposure.