Shane Watson played the best knock of his career so far scoring 176 on the opening day of the fifth Test match at the Oval. It was also a day when three players were handed debuts and Watson miraculously got a review right. Prakash Govindasreenivasan has more.
Flat wicket, David Warner‘s early dismissal and a promotion to No 3 — the stage could not have been set better for Watson to play a big innings and take some pressure off his skipper’s shoulder. And he did just that. When one looks back, it will be easy to point out the dropped chance by Alastair Cook when Watson was on triple figures, but the big man rode his luck.
Debutants Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan were taken to the cleaners by Watson. The big-hitting Australian targeted the duo who never settled. Woakes’s inability to bowl testing line and length helped Watson’s cause.
When the teams took lunch, Watson was on 80 from 77 deliveries. The second session saw England bowl tighter line and length to keep the run flow down. Watson was forced to slow down but he did not lose concentration.
He brought up his first Ashes ton and was on 121 from 157 balls when the teams took tea. The final session saw Watson getting boundaries at will again. England desperately needed his wicket, but couldn’t force a way through. Watson went past 150 and piled on the misery for the hosts. Towards the end of the day, it took a sensational diving catch from Kevin Pietersen to bring an end to what can easily be touted as Watson’s best in Test cricket.
A review finally going in Watson’s favour!
Absolutely nothing could have gone wrong with Watson on Day One — neither his erring footwork nor his tendency to instinctively go for a review. He had been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Runs were not flowing and there was a label of ‘selfish’ hovering above his head, given his knack to review any decision that went against him in this series. That did not change at The Oval. He was hard done by a length delivery that didn’t bounce enough for him to go through with his pull in front of square. He had to alter his shot and look to protect the three sticks behind him from getting rattled. The ball, in the process hit him on the leg. A loud appeal followed. Kumar Dharmasena had a good look and gave Chris Woakes his first Test wicket… or did he?
Watson consulted his partner and went for the ‘T’ sign. Replays showed up on the big screen and much to Watson’s delight, he got it right. He survived, thanks to what can be termed as the mother of all reviews this season.
It was the first time since 1993 that more than two players made their debut in an Ashes Test. Australia’s James Faulkner got his first opportunity while England gave Woakes and Kerrigan a go.
Kerrigan’s bad day in the office
Kerrigan realised the rigours of Test cricket in his first two overs. He conceded six boundaries in his first two overs. At one point his bowling figures red 2-0-28-0 which included 18 off the second over. One would mistakenly take these figures as T20 bowling analysis. The left-arm spinner was hurt psychologically. During his second spell he dished out a head-height full-toss to Steven Smith — a succor ball which was contemptuously pulled for a boundary.
Australia dominated the first day’s play and will be looking to score big in the first innings.