Ashes 2013: Shane Watson will open for Australia, says Darren Lehmann

Shane Watson (right) has not opened for Australia since 2011 © Getty Images

London: Jun 27, 2013

Darren Lehmann on Wednesday said that Shane Watson will open for Australia in the first Ashes Test, which begins on July 10 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham. The newly-appointed Aussie coach spoke to the gathered media after Day 1 of the first Ashes warm-up match against Somerset in Taunton.

In the first day’s play, Somerset were bowled out for 320 after being at 304 for two. Nick Compton (81) and Chris Jones (130) put on a second-wicket partnership of 170 runs. The young Jones then added another 119 runs with James Hildreth (66) for the third wicket. Then it was Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson, who starred by taking four wicket each in the innings.

“Pleased with the end result on a good flat wicket. Bowlers toiled pretty hard. Starc and Pattinson bowled, the way we should have the whole day, after lunch,” Lehmann said as reported by NDTV.

The quicks showed that they were in good form and that has shifted the attention to Australia’s batsmen, who have consistently failed in recent months.

Many feel that Watson’s best position for Australia is while opening. He hasn’t opened in a Test for Australia since 2011, when they played against South Africa in Johannesburg. He averaged almost 50 runs during the 2009-11 seasons, when he consistently opened. But from 2011-13 his average has come down to just about 25.

Watson has had his issues during that later phase and hence his poor form, but he does remain a very important player for Australia according to Lehmann.

“Shane, yeah, he’ll be opening for us,” Lehmann said. “That’s where we want him to bat and he’s done really well for us there and we’re quite keen for him to open and to have a big part in the Ashes and obviously make a lot of runs for us and start the innings up well.

“He’s been up and down the order but his most success has been as an opener. We hope he gets a big score for us on Day 2 and see how we go. You need good starts to make big scores against a good side, so, we need him to give us good starts to put pressure on England.

“We’ve talked about wanting blokes to perform and if you perform you’ll have a chance to play in the first Test. We want to give everyone in our squad the opportunity to perform well in the tour games and that’s what we’re about.”

During the tour of India early in 2013, Watson batted at No 4 and only scored 99 runs in six innings at an average of 16.50. Australia lost the series 4-0.

Lehmann was not too bothered about Watson not bowling enough as he wanted the regular bowlers to use the opportunity to fully prepare for the Ashes.

“We want to have a look at the other four bowlers, and that’s the only reason. But Watson will bowl next game,” Lehmann added.

Another question for Australia is that even if Watson does open, who does he partner. The specialist openers in the squad are Ed Cowan, Chris Rogers and David Warner. There is suggestion that Warner might drop down to the middle-order — if does play the first Ashes Test.