Picking a player of the day can often be a contentious point, especially when the cricket is so utterly mediocre. With that being said, there was no doubt that the player of the day on the first day at The Oval was Steve Smith.
Just kidding. It was Shane Watson. Not only was Watson the player of the day, it was also Watson's day. He seized his opportunities and watched them multiply as he did. Aside from scoring a ton, he also managed to get a review right. A review for a leg-before decision, at that. Watson's 176 was a fine effort and Australian fans must be so terribly frustrated that he has left it all so very late.
After spending some one-on-one time with skipper Michael Clarke to work on his lbw weakness, it seems that it has finally worked. It's only his third hundred in Test cricket and his first since October 2010.
Before today, Watson managed just over 500 minutes at the crease. He managed 200 of those minutes in one go in Durham. Watson combined time at the crease with aggression for almost three full sessions on Wednesday.
In his innings prior to Wednesday, Watson still looked reasonably apt for the miniscule scores he managed. He looked set on the back-foot and, until some sort of reaction in his brain would result in once getting getting trapped with his leg before his stumps.
There was none of that today. It was like all his little-bitty innings from all across the summer had been weaved into one super innings without any sort of weakness.
Of course, wonderful as his knock was, it should be taken with a pinch of salt.
He showed similar promise at Durham in the first innings and then failed to live up to the hype. Even so, he deserves massive credit for being able to adjust to yet another shift in the order. Batting at No. 3, he took to the task like a duck to water.
Exploiting Swann for singles was the key in Watson's innings. Rotating the strike is crafty and leaves bowlers frustrated. This was backed up with some serious aggressive play, hitting boundaries almost at will. He countered barren spells with much aggression to keep scoring at a pace he seems quite comfortable with.
Were it not for an outstanding catch from Kevin Pietersen which resulted in his wicket, Watson probably would have gone on to score 200.
One swallow does not make a summer, but in this case it might.
Summer is over after this Test, and this could very well be the innings that ensures Watson keeps his place.
Game: Cricket. Level: Advanced. Watson: Aced.
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