Shane Waston’s magnificent ton on the opening day of the fifth and final Ashes ton at The Oval was affirmation of the fact that the all-rounder is still not past his prime. His 247-ball 176, which was studded with 25 fours and a six, gave the Aussies the perfect launch pad on the opening day of The Oval Test. The problem though is that the much-needed innings has come a bit too late as far as Australia are concerned. The series is already out of their grasp, and Watson’s ton is thus merely of academic importance.
Ironically, a startling fact came to the fore as Watson raised his century on Wednesday. It was only his third Test century in his 46th Test. For a player of Watson calibre, who is so highly rated in international cricket, it is a very disappointing statistic. In fact, probing further we find out that this is Watson’s first Test hundred in close to three years. His last Test ton came against India at Mohali in October 2010 while his debut Test century was scored against Pakistan at Melbourne the year before, in December 2009.
What is highly discouraging from the Australian point of view is the fact that Watson has registered 23 scores of 50 plus in 84 Test innings thus far, but only three of them have been 100 plus scores. In the early part of his career, his lack of tons were not questioned since he batted in the lower-middle order. From his debut versus Pakistan at Sydney in January 2005 to a Test against New Zealand at Brisbane in November 2008, he batted only at number six and seven. Still, he managed only one-half century during this entire phase, which wasn’t very pleasing for the Australian selectors.
Watson’s second phase as a batsman arrived when he was told to open against England at Birmingham in July 2009. He got three consecutive half-centuries in the first three innings, and while that was an impressive start to his Test career as an opener, it was also an indication of what was to come. His first five scores as an opener for Australia read as follows –62, 53, 51, 34 and 40. In all these knocks, he looked comfortable out in the middle, but failed to convert even one of them into big scores. As a lower-order bat, these numbers were great, but from opener Watson a lot more was expected.
Considering his humungous talent, Australia were confident that he would deliver by gaining experience and maturity. He did flourish at the top position, but not often enough for Australia’s point of view. Watson opened the batting consistently from July 2009 to November 2011. In this period, he registered 13 half-centuries, but only two tons. A couple of times he fell in the 90s, but apart from that there were too many scores in the region of 50s to 70 thatshould have been converted into big hundreds, like the one at The Oval. Australia can only hope that Watson has a few more massive knocks up his sleeve in the times to come.
--By A Cricket Analyst