Somerset v Australians, Taunton, 2nd day June 27, 2013

Watson responds to Lehmann regime


Stumps Australians 266 for 4 (Watson 90, Clarke 45, Hughes 44*, Haddin 38*) trail Somerset 320 (Jones 130, Compton 81, Starc 4-33) by 54 runs

Shane Watson followed James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc in providing a tantalising glimpse of the destructive power to be found within this Australian side as they warmed up against Somerset. In sending Watson up to open the innings and promising he will stay there, the new coach, Darren Lehmann, appeared to bring an immediate change to the allrounder's previously drifting game.

An innings of 90, on a blameless pitch against presentable bowling, does not quite indicate that Watson is to regain the Test match effectiveness that won him two Allan Border Medals, and had him named as Michael Clarke's deputy in 2011. In fact the score itself was emblematic of Watson's career aversion to making Test hundreds. But the clarity of his stroke production and the ease of his rapid scoring was exactly what Lehmann will hope for against Jimmy Anderson and company.

It was a marked contrast from Watson's previous innings, a brief affair against Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy when one cover drive was followed by a horrid attempt to cut in line of the stumps. Wasteful dismissals such as these have been a significant factor in the failure of Watson to deliver on a promise that has hung in the air around him for a decade now, but there was nothing muddled about the way he opened up at Taunton, driving when the bowlers overpitched, pulling or glancing when short, and leaving most in between.

Michael Clarke also offered a promising cameo, finding touch in his first innings of any kind for three months before rain brought an early end to day two. A pair of low scores for Ed Cowan and Usman Khawaja did not enhance either left-hander's chances of winning a place in the XI for the first Investec Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. As the others proved, these were ideal conditions for batting.

Phillip Hughes and Brad Haddin were easing their way towards useful tallies when the showers arrived. Haddin lofted George Dockrell down the ground with typical flourish to have the ball pounding off the scorers' window in the Taunton press box. When the match resumes, Hughes should have the opportunity to press his case for retention after Cowan and Khawaja had failed to capitalise on their precedence in the batting order.

Watson ran up a huge percentage of his runs in boundaries, his straight drives a particular delight. He also took full advantage whenever Craig Meschede angled into the pads, flicking with wristy power between midwicket and mid on. He briefly threatened to collar a century before lunch, but a front edge from the bowling of the slippery Craig Overton ended a stay that lasted only 94 balls, 20 of which reached the rope.

Clarke's start was a little less forthright, as could be expected for someone who had not batted since the Mohali Test match against India in March, when the suspension of four players for failing to follow instructions was followed by the flaring up of his chronic back condition. But he punched a couple of drives through cover off the back foot to get going, and showed familiar balance and footwork against Dockrell's left-arm spin. It took a precisely-pitched away swinger from Meschede to dislodge Clarke, although by then he had probably given his back enough of a work out.

Cowan, whose odds of playing in Nottingham were lengthened somewhat by the coach Darren Lehmann's declaration that Watson would definitely open, fell in the very first over of the morning when he was deemed to have touched a Gemaal Hussain delivery on its way through to the wicketkeeper Alex Barrow. The dismissal had Cowan pointing agitatedly towards his trouser or pocket, but whatever the merits of the decision it now means one less opportunity to make the runs that would shore up his place, which may need to be earned again to some extent under Lehmann.

Khawaja survived somewhat longer for his 27, but it was a scratchy effort with numerous angled deliveries troubling him outside off stump. He was struck on the body when trying to pull Overton, who was slippery, and fell in an unsurprising manner by wafting at Meschede to be pouched in the slips. Hughes had time to snick one streaky boundary before the morning session concluded.

Minus Watson, the afternoon's scoring was more sedate, but Clarke's lack of discomfort was a welcome sign that his back has settled, and Hughes worked the ball around effectively with only the occasional flirt through the slips. He remained a little more hesitant against spin, but at least managed to get off the strike every now and then, which represented progress from India. Like Watson, a fresh start may be about to do him some good.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on June 28, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    @VivGilchrist on (June 28, 2013, 10:31 GMT) - mate, if it was that simple, everyone would play like Gilchrest. The fact is, its not like that at all. Watto can hit boundaries, it takes skill, most of his shots are pleasant (brutal), but the POINT is, there are many opportunities to play LOW RISK deflection etc that only yoeld a single, but IMPORTANTLY it gets you off strike, gives the other batsmen a sighter, & disrupts the bowler & captains plans. This of course ignores the fact that Watto often has brain fades when running a single.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    @PrasPunter, fair enough, but it's still just one innings. I think Ussie has 3 FC centuries in the last 2 years? Rogers has like 5 in the last 6 months, thats where its at, that is the standard that MUST be attained.

    @Mitty2, why do people bag Cowan? Just one century from 30 odd innings, worse average than any of Watson, Warner and Hughes and doesn't hold all of his catches either. I like the idea of having an Ed Cowan in the team, but he has to score a few more centuries, average 40+ and hold his catches a little better. I think the poms will be warming their hands in readiness for a catch every time he gets to 30. You can go about Warner and Hughes 'flashiness' as much as you want but big aggressive centuries wins matches, gritty 30's just leave the first drop a bit twitchy at the lunch break.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    What would be good is if this team had not really an allrounder but a batsman who can bowl a bit, to keep the runs tight, Clarke would be great if not for his back, Watson becomes 5th bowler, but aside from those 5 someone like finch or hodge with tight off spin would be handy in there to use inbetween spells of the 4 cardinal bowlers. But the team is coming together well.

  • H on June 28, 2013, 10:54 GMT

    @Rowayton heh, I get what you mean, but Watson's never going to be that kind of player and would probably end up struggling if he tried to be. Think that's part of the reason for why he slumped when he moved down the order. He seemed to struggle to decide whether to attack or consolidate and in the end did neither.

    Rodgers seems more naturally suited to that job and Cowan could be if he stopped gifting his wicket away once he's done the hard part. Think you're right about Trott, and that's where you guys are going to miss Huss. Both teams rely heavily on their captains but where Cook has Trott for support, Clarke no longer has Huss, who got overshadowed a bit during the SA series but was probably crucial to Clarke's run of form in that series.

    I rate Anderson, Swann and Cook but Pattinson's a handful and will only get better, Lyon's a tidy spinner with guile and very young by spinner's standards, and Clarke's 1500 runs in 2012 at an average over 100 speaks for itself.

  • Basil on June 28, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    @moppa and Meety, to score boundaries you need to find the the gaps. If you find the gaps but with not enough power you have to run. So what you would prefer is that he used less power in his shots so he has to run more?

  • Aneep on June 28, 2013, 8:54 GMT

    Watson and Rogers would be a good opening choice. For me, the jury is still out on Cowen and Khwaja

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    1. Rogers 2. Watson 3. Cowan/Khawaja( Cowan good rock for 3?) 4. Hughes(unless another batter comes along). 5. Clarke 6. Warner/Smith(If Smith plays and performsin next warmup, then him) 7. Haddin 8. Agar/Starc(depending if Pitch is Slow or Quick) 9. Pattinson 10. Lyon/Harris(same with pitch) 11. Bird Team is picking itself a bit more than when they went to India, kind of a good thing.

  • Guy on June 28, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    @Troy Merritt and @Dazako, agreed on Cowan. He has been solid if unspectacular. Eventually his lack of talent will mean that he is dropped but in the meantime he will do a decent job taking the shine off the ball. Flipside of this is that he doesn't have the shots to bat further down the order. Hence my preference for Cowan opening and Rogers at 3. For those suggesting Cowan at 3, I don't think he has the big innings pedigree for that role.

  • Guy on June 28, 2013, 8:15 GMT

    @VivGilchrist, no, I'm just making the point that he hasn't proven anything with this innings. I would have been impressed if he'd pushed on to 140, at least that his concentration has improved. I think @Meety makes a great point on Watson's dependence on boundaries, which is probably related to why he gets bogged down in the middle part of ODIs and generally when the ball is older and not coming on. @stuartk319, the 'bagging' regarding making 90 is that batsmen have to cash in and go on when they get set - this compensates for the inevitable failures. Watson's failure to convert starts is the main reason why his career average is 35 and not 45. However, since 1/1/2011 he has averaged 25 over 28 innings, including 10 innings over 30: 2 scores above 60, and 8 scores from 30 to 59. Watson has lost his earlier consistency, but retained his complete inability to convert starts!!! Incidentally, Warner's last 28 inns also include 10 scores over 30: 2 100s, 4 x 60-99, 4 x 30-59, average 40.

  • Andrew on June 28, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    @Chris_P on (June 27, 2013, 21:42 GMT) - I think IF Smith is given a chance before the 1st Test & does half decently, he will be given a spot. Not sure about Hughes, I would like him @#4 & Clarke @ #5, Smith #6, & Haddin #7. That would mean we have a fairly good middle order v spin. It would be the job of Watto/Cowan & Rogers to see off Anderson & co. I feel sorry for Khawaja - the useless domestic schedule has stalled his (& Doolan's progress) & they haven't seemed to get their groove back. So I think the side will be 1. Cowan, 2. Watson, 3. Rogers, 4. Hughes, 5. Clarke, 6. Smith, 7. Haddin, 8. Starc, 9. Siddle, 10. Pattinson, 11. Lyon. Hopefully Watto & Cowan will draw inspiration from 1989-vintage Taylor/Marsh & bat ALL DAY! C'mon Ozzy!