Bridging Watson's concentration gap
Shane Watson's chances of finally dominating an Ashes series in the way his talent has always suggested will hinge on avoiding the lapses that have conspired to leave him with only two Test centuries in 41 matches. So long as he can stay at the other end, Watson's opening partner Chris Rogers believes he can help close the concentration gap that has kept the allrounder from turning good into great.
Opening with Watson for the first time against Worcestershire at New Road, Rogers was awed by the crispness and power of his new partner's strokeplay. But he was also alert to the fact that Watson can make batting appear so natural that comfort becomes his enemy - a shot played too presumptuously or too soon has often resulted in his demise.
"I was trying to drive him," Rogers said in Nottingham ahead of the first Test. "Only because he was in many respects far better than their attack but his challenge is to bat for long periods of time, which he certainly has the skill and the temperament to do. It's up to him now. Hopefully if I get the chance I can help with that a little bit as well.
"He was outstanding - I haven't seen a bloke down the other end hit the ball as well as that for a long time. So it's a good sign, he's in excellent form and I thought we got on well and communicated well, so that was a good start for us."
That communication included Rogers advising Watson to be careful loading up to play cross-bat strokes against shorter balls on a wicket that was given to the occasional variation in pace. The next short ball duly behaved oddly as Watson swayed out of the way, drawing a smile and nod of appreciation towards the non-striker. Watson still rattled to three figures before lunch, enhanced concentration reaping a first-class hundred for the first time since the 2010 Mohali Test match.
Contrast that with Rogers' 60 first-class centuries, including two in England so far this summer for Middlesex, and there is plenty for the Watson the hare to learn from the tortoise. "I think with batting it's about keeping in your own little bubble and making sure your focus is strong and that you're setting yourself to bat for a long time," Rogers said. "Over my career that's been one of my skills, so maybe I can just give a little bit of insight into that.
"You can't concentrate [constantly] for that amount of time and it's about focusing. That's a skill as well. To bat long periods of time you have to be able to do that there's no doubt, and there's techniques to that, and at times I've been able to do that well."
This is not to say that Rogers is after an unofficial coaching commission within the team. He has enough on his mind readying himself for a first Test match since 2008. "I think the fact Darren Lehmann and Michael Di Venuto [the batting coach] have been in and about England and able to pass on plenty of info has been good," he said. "I've been able to do my own thing and just help out when and if required."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here