Australia in West Indies, 2012

Watson content as Test No. 3

Daniel Brettig

March 15, 2012

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson walks off after falling short of a century, South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day, November 18, 2011
Shane Watson's last Test in Johannesburg looks like being his last match as an opening batsman © AFP

Shane Watson will happily return to Australia's Test team as a No. 3 batsman, having reasoned that he is no longer in a position to demand the opening spot he vacated due to injury in 2011.

Since Watson fell prey to hamstring and calf injuries, the contrasting David Warner and Ed Cowan have begun a fledgling top order partnership that shows all the signs of developing into a fruitful union. They are now set to resume opening duties in the Caribbean, as Watson slips into the No. 3 spot vacated by an under-performing Shaun Marsh.

A year ago Watson could have named his place - and his price - in an Australian team struggling to find successful practitioners in most positions. However now the team led by Michael Clarke has completed a successful home summer without him, Watson said he was grateful to have any kind of place in the team, and would have no qualms about walking out at No. 3.

"I'm happy to play anywhere to be honest after sitting out all the summer and seeing how successful the Test team was, there's no doubt that I'd love to fit in wherever I possibly can," Watson said in St Vincent. "I have really enjoyed opening the batting in Test cricket and all forms of the game, but in the end batting at No. 3 you're still certainly in the engine room with a newer ball potentially.

"So I'm happy to try and compliment the team wherever I possibly can, because it has been an extremely exciting and successful Test summer and I'd love to be a part of that."

Watson was given the first hint of his future position when he returned to the ODI XI at No. 3 during the home triangular series. He may yet return to opening in the West Indies in limited overs formats, as he and the coach Mickey Arthur formulate the best plan to attack the hosts.

"That's where I finished up this summer, batting at No. 3, and what we're working through at the moment is what's going to be the best balance for our batting line-up, not just with me but with the other guys we've got at our disposal as well," Watson said. "So that's what we're talking through at the moment, what's going to be the best balance and what we think the West Indies are going to throw at us as well."

Australia's reduced reliance on senior players has been part of the coaching and selection strategy across the summer, which Arthur said had been geared at building a squad of about 22 players capable of stepping into action at any given moment. He pointed to current absentees including Pat Cummins, Clarke and Mitchell Johnson as proof the team was now better equipped to cope with a relentless cycle of fixtures.

"One of the briefs at the start of the summer was to create depth, and I think that's really important to create a depth pool that you can choose from," Arthur said. "With the amount of cricket we play, there's injuries always crop up and obviously loss of form. I think we've realised that we need to manage our best players better in order to get better results from them, so we needed to create that depth.

"We wanted to create a depth pool of 22 players by the end of the summer and we've prettymuch done that, and that has been reflected in the Test selections. I'm very confident that every player who steps up now to the side has had the opportunity and knows what is expected of him, so it has been a pretty successful summer in that regard."

The West Indian team, led by Darren Sammy, can call on a strong record at the Arnos Vale Ground for confidence ahead of their first meeting with Watson's team. Sammy has enjoyed two of his better international displays at the venue, 4 for 26 in an ODI against Zimbabwe in 2010, and 5 for 70 against Bangladesh in a Test in 2009.

"So far St Vincent has been a very good ground for us, as a West Indies team we always get results in our favour here, and for me personally it is a happy hunting ground," Sammy said. "The last three games we've played here we won all three, so obviously what happened against India and Pakistan we're looking to repeat that and start this series off on a winning note.

"We know we're playing Australia and we're not going to go out and play names, we're just going to play good, positive cricket, and hopefully we can come out on top."

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

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Posted by Meety on (March 16, 2012, 0:11 GMT)

@RandyOz - maybe Pup will move up the order, IMO, I can't see the diff between batting @#4 or #5, (he does well @#4 or in ODIs), maybe he should shuffle up the order v WIndies? He may only need to have 1 good score in that position, to get the monkey off his back, but for mine I'm happy having him knock up double & triple tons from #5!!!!!! @landl47 - that was funny, credit where its due! Too bad the Ashes are going back down under where they belong!

Posted by Meety on (March 16, 2012, 0:06 GMT)

@RandyOz - the belief that Clarke needs to bat @ #3 as captain lead from the front is not backed up by History mate. You have mentioned players like Border & Waugh did (on other threads). It is not true, Border as captain batted in 154 innings, 150 of those innings were from #4 or below, (75 were in the #4 position). Steve Waugh NEVER batted above #5 as captain of Oz, over half of Greg Chappell's captaincy was #4 or below. Clarke has played for NSW @ #3 & did score a century just prior to the recent Ashes, I think he has had a desire to take up the Oz tradition of having the best bat @ #3, unfortunately for Pup, his numbers in the #3 position have never been good for Oz, in 18 tests batting at #3 or #4 his ave would barely top 22, whereas his #5 ave is over 60. I would much rather have a bloke average 60 @ #5, & get some hacks fill in the other positions, then have a class batsmen like ave 22 @ #3 & some hacks filling in #5. (TBC)

Posted by Moppa on (March 15, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

I don't understand the argument that he's an all-rounder so therefore he should bat at 6. Jacques Kallis, anyone? Watson's best spot long-term, for me, is 3 or 4. He's probably better off early in his innings against pace rather than spin, and has a very solid technique. Would be nice if he could convert more starts into big tons to be a true number 3. I also don't understand the argument that Clarke should bat at 3. Clarke and Hussey are far better against spin early in their innings compared to Ponting or Watson, and so ideally suited to 5 and 6. Steve Waugh never 'manned up' and moved from 5 to 3, and he seemed to go OK in Test cricket. Incidentally, I don't see why Ponting and Watson can't interchange between 3 and 4 during this transition phase. E.g. if Australia bowls first and Watson sends down 10+ overs, and then bats late on the first day, why should Punter pad up and come in at number 3, hopefully saving Watson to be fresh for the second morning?

Posted by Benster2 on (March 15, 2012, 22:38 GMT)

Great news. Watson is perfect at no 3 bearing in mind that Ponting hasn't been handling no 3 well as of late (and seems to be doing well at no 4), Clarke doesn't really consistently bat well at 3 or 4 and Mr Cricket seems pretty at home at 6. Just need to make sure we are Haddin-free for the first test and it looks like a pretty good batting card.

Posted by jgoogly on (March 15, 2012, 22:14 GMT)

Watson was groomed to be an all rounder batting at number 6 and that is his spot. He is injury prone and he is not an ideal opener.

Posted by montys_muse on (March 15, 2012, 20:42 GMT)

Watson at no.5 or 6. It will give him a break after his bowling responsibilities and prevent injuries. Ponting or Clarke should be no.3.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2012, 19:55 GMT)

Watson is returning from an injury.. his injury record is not somethng tht befits a No 3.....Put Punter at 3........ Clarke..4 Hussey 5......Watto 6......given his experience against new ball........ he wud be handy handling the 2nd new ball......

Posted by Beertjie on (March 15, 2012, 16:28 GMT)

@AdoSR: you are spot on there - Watto needs more rest. He probably doesn't want to bat too low, so I go along with the view of Luke Hantzis that he should bat 4. There he could do the kind of job Kallis has been doing for ages - reliable bat and fourth seamer. But if Clarke can't himself see the need to move up, none of this will happen. If he does the right thing, Punter and Hussey can be replaced by any number of batsmen who show over the next year that they've got what it takes by following up one good season with another. It would also be much easier for them coming in lower down than pushing them up at 3 or 4 and trying to get 'more' out of Watto by batting him at 6. Given all the depth in pacers we've got, it wouldn't half be good to see whether there's a Greg Mathews-type in the wings that could permit the selection of 4 quicks (although one needs to be a leftie to provide variety). Hope S'OK can rediscover his mojo.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2012, 12:26 GMT)

I think the Test batting line-up should be Warner, Cowan, Clarke, Watson, Hussey, Ponting, Wade/Haddin, Pattinson, Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Lyon. Ponting in at No. 6 would be fantastic. It's usually the 5th or 6th spot that provides real impetus in the form of an elder statesman nearing the end of their careers. Hussey and Ponting are the men to fill those positions up until they retire.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2012, 12:18 GMT)

Watson clearly wants to be at the top of the order. No.3 is perfect i think because it still allows him to do so. He is still Australia"s MVP

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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