The Investec Ashes 2013 August 18, 2013

Watson works on lbw woes with Clarke


Shane Watson hopes that a batting masterclass with the captain Michael Clarke, and the absence of his tormentor Tim Bresnan, will help him overcome his lbw issues in the final Test at The Oval. Australia's lacklustre batting effort during the tour match against England Lions may influence the selectors ahead of the final Test, but the Australians hope that what happened off field might have just as much impact as they search for ways to prevent another Test capitulation.

On the eve of the Northampton game, Watson spent a long session in the nets facing throwdowns from the official batting coach Michael di Venuto, while Clarke served as an unofficial mentor and yelled advice from the other end of the pitch. The goal was clear - to find a way for Watson to play as close as possible to his natural game while preventing a dismissal that comes equally naturally, the walking-across-his-stumps-lbw that has brought his downfall four times in this series.

"I've been having a chat to Michael over the last week especially about the way that I'm getting out, lbw at the moment," Watson said after the Northampton match. "I'm getting a lot of different information about the ways that I can try to get that right. Michael just more so jogged my memory of a few things that I was doing a couple of years ago, more so with Greg Chappell, and making sure I was taking it back to the basics and having someone throw the ball slowly and making sure I was getting myself in the right position.

"Michael's advice has been excellent. He has been through a similar thing at some stage in his career. It's good to be able to get his advice. He's certainly one of the best players in the world and has been for the last couple of years. He has been through all those different challenges throughout his Test career, so it's nice to be able to get his advice."

Watson and Clarke have not always seen eye to eye in the Australian camp - former coach Mickey Arthur's leaked legal documents certainly confirmed those reports - but both men insist they work together well, and a smoothly-running Watson in the middle order would be of significant benefit to the team's hopes. Watson showed some good signs in the first innings at Chester-le-Street, when he supported Chris Rogers with 68, but another lbw in the chase added to his trouble.

The good news for Watson is that Bresnan has been ruled out of the final Test due to a back injury, and while both James Anderson and Stuart Broad have also trapped Watson lbw once each in this series, Bresnan has done it twice. It was Bresnan who did the job in the second innings of the fourth Test and Watson knows that even in the absence of Bresnan, he must find a balance between playing his natural game and planting his front foot too much.

"I let myself down in the second innings to get out that way again," Watson said. "I know how they will attack me. Bresnan is the one who has given me the most trouble with that angle and unfortunately for him, but fortunately for me, he won't be playing. He has bowled nicely and done a great job."

Watson had hoped to put some of his training into practice during the tour match against the England Lions but he found himself largely facing the left-arm spin of Simon Kerrigan, against whom he clubbed 36 of his 45 runs. He was out hooking James Harris to fine leg, which denied him the chance to work on his technique more against the fast men.

"Mainly [my aim] was to try and face some quicks to work on a technical thing that I've been working on, getting my front leg out of the way more than anything, or getting my bat in the way," Watson said. "It wasn't too much of a practice against that today unfortunately. But being down here and being able to do a lot of work on that in the nets alone, I have got a lot out of these last few days anyway."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Scott on August 22, 2013, 12:58 GMT

    @FFL, large rings Anderson is running, mate, all round the oval chasing leather. @hhillbumper & @Tommytuckersaffa, two of the least likely candidtates for analyst of the year with their complete lack of cricketing knowledge. Why would Aus go after an Andrew Flintoff??? The guy averaged over 30 with the ball and less with the bat! He may have been inspirational in a team devoid of any talent, but he would hardly last two games in an Aus side the way we shuffle players around...@JAH123, you really haven't got a clue about Watson whatsoever, mate. He's actually done very well for us as opener and did average around 41 before this series there (not sure of his avg now). Since his injury around 2 years ago we promoted Cowan to the top and have shuffled Watson ever since. With that, plus an obvious fallout with ignorant Arthur, it's no wonder his scores have been pathetic. We need Watson, as I agree with you, faulkner isn't good enough with the bat and Henriques isn't good enough period...

  • James on August 19, 2013, 23:23 GMT

    @ jmcilhinney - That's exactly my point - Watson is NOT a front-line test batsman. He has been played in that role because Australia are lacking batting depth but he has all the hallmarks of a genuine allrounder. Let him bat at 6 or 7 so he can come in and support a set batsman (like he did with Rogers at Durham) or bat with the tail. If he had played his whole career in that role then the general public might have a very different view of his test cricketing ability right now.

  • Charles on August 19, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    Watson is hitting too many easy runs in T20 and the IPL and his technique has suffered. If he is serious about his test career he should take a sabatical from IPL 2014 . I doubt he will do this so he will eventually be dropped as the technical problem will not be sorted .

  • hari on August 19, 2013, 8:16 GMT

    A close look at every aspect of him Watson gives the impression of a champ. He is tall, strong, has a quick eye, can play on any surface, can bat in any format, can bowl with the new or old ball, good slip fielder, et al. He is the perfect man to have in the team. However, he does not perform to that billing. What could be the reason? Only Watson can answer if he knows about it. As a spectator, I feel Watson comes on to bat with an intention to do well. Once he strikes a couple of boundaries thinks he is in fine nick and tries to smash every ball to the fence. He tries to play the same shots against all bowlers. And more often than not departs early disappointed. I think he should start respecting each bowler. He should spend time facing each bowler as he comes on in each spell. He should attempt to dominate only after he gauges the bowler correctly. You cannot take the same medicine for all ailments Shane! His bowling is a huge bonus and on helpful tracks can run through a side.

  • John on August 19, 2013, 7:30 GMT

    @JAH123 on (August 18, 2013, 23:35 GMT), but Bairstow is over 8 years Watson's junior and played over 30 fewer Tests while Watson only has a slightly better average. If Bairstow is still averaging mid 30s at Watson's age then he will have been discarded long since. Of course, Watson's bowling is a big plus and England would love a fifth bowler like him. If Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes or the like can bowl as well as Watson and average 35 at #7 then England may well be happy but they wouldn't accept it from a front-line batsman. Interestingly, Watson has a better batting average than Ian Botham. Again though, Botham batted #7 and had a better bowling average than Watson though. He also won games with the bat single-handedly, which Watson has never really done.

  • Murray on August 19, 2013, 5:48 GMT

    Watson has not played his best this series. or for many series to be honest ! His batting against the Lion's I have no problem with however.

    Kerrigan is in the English squad, the Oval always taken spin. Taking him down was seriously important ? Sad the others didn't ! There's always another game to play against "that guy" . Establishing how it will normally go is to me basic cricket !

  • Dummy4 on August 19, 2013, 5:43 GMT

    It seems most of the comments here (as per usual) show much more intelligence and common sense than the Australian selectors. This series was supposed to be Watson's last chance saloon, as if the selectors still had faith in him coming good, because the last two years has not provided enough evidence of his ineptness. The entire English team must be having a right old chuckle to themselves. But it's ok, our saviour is having a masterclass, so he is sure to make a good score sometime within the next 6 months.

  • Dummy4 on August 19, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    Watson's primary problem is simple: he thinks like an allrounder. That means he feels, at some level, his batting job is done when he passes fifty. That, not his fallibility to falling LBW, is his main problem.

  • Ski on August 19, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    As a Pom I hope he is in the Australian Test team for many years to come!