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August 18, 2013
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 hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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