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The Ashes 2009: Watson Settles Into New Role

By on July 31, 2009

The Ashes 2009: Shane Watson

Australia 126 for 1 (Watson 62*) v England…

Shane Watson survived his baptism as a Test opener to help Australia claim the upper hand on a hugely truncated opening day in the third Ashes Test against England.

The effects of torrential rain at Edgbaston yesterday and further showers this morning delayed the start until 5pm, but Australia seemed intent on making up for lost time during an entertaining session spanning just over two hours.

All-rounder Watson, employed as an opener at this level for the first time after Phillip Hughes was dropped, raced to 62 not out as the tourists closed on 126 for two.

He was accompanied by captain Ricky Ponting when the players left the field after 30 eventful overs, having seen Simon Katich – his partner in a rapid opening stand worth 85 – fall four short of a half-century.

Grame Swann was responsible for the only wicket to fall in the 30 overs possible, although it was symptomatic of England’s struggles with the ball that it came courtesy of a long hop which trapped Katich lbw.

As well as Watson batted – he drove solidly and cut and pulled forcefully – he was abetted by England’s seamers, all of whom failed to make best use of a pitch which had spent much of the day under cover.

Though they could claim to be inconvenienced by spongy run-ups and a damp ball, that they leaked 22 boundaries said much for a lack of discipline – as well as Watson’s willingness to attack.

He was responsible for 10 of those boundaries, overcoming a slightly nervous start to unfurl a glorious square drive – on one knee – at James Anderson’s expense.

He almost played on twice, but they were minor exceptions as he attacked the England bowling with relish, reining in his aggressive instincts as the close of play drew nearer.

It said much for Australia’s dominance early on that he was outscored by Katich, his more experienced opening partner.

While the left-hander was particularly harsh on anything straying on to his pads, he too drove with a commendably straight bat as Anderson was punished for overpitching once more.

Swann’s introduction into the attack after just 18 overs – possibly an act of desperation from captain Andrew Strauss – reaped almost immediate dividends, the final ball of his first over striking Katich high on the front leg as he attempted to pull.

It proved to be an isolated success for England, who saw Watson go to an 89-ball half-century moments after Ponting brought up 20,000 first-class runs. The hosts will have their work cut out tomorrow.

There was one change to the Australia team after the toss had been made. Brad Haddin broke a finger during the warm-up, and England granted Australia permission to replace him with reserve wicketkeeper Graham Manou.

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