Shane Watson has parachuted into an Australian opening batsman slot and surprisingly been the big success story of day one of the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Watson, who replaced the out-of-form Philip Hughes as an opening batsman and fifth bowler, had never opened in Tests before and only had any serious experience in the position in one-day and Twenty20 forms of the game. He and Katich shared an 85-run opening partnership and Watson remains 62 not out with Ricky Ponting 17 to put Australia one for 126 at the close of a weather-curtailed day’s play that only spanned 30 overs.
Brad Haddin was the other change for the Australians, breaking an index finger in the warm up and leaving captain Ricky Ponting to have to ask English counterpart Andrew Strauss for special leave to bring in Graeme Manou after team sheets had been submitted. As expected, Ian Bell was the replacement for the injured Kevin Pieterson for the home side.
The English attack began poorly, with Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson bowling too short and wide, allowing Watson and Katich to leave balls that were swinging in overcast conditions. It took a while for the first boundary, a cover drive by Watson, but the runs started to flow as the sun came out and the line and length did not improve.
Watson survived a close LBW shout from Anderson before the first bowling change, but his combination of playing down the ground “in the V” and pulling viciously at short balls proved successful, particularly against Graham Onions who replaced Anderson. Broad, who replaced Flintoff, fared little better against Katich, giving away a number of easy boundaries from full balls pitched on the stumps while playing with a field that contained only two leg-side fielders.
It took until the advent of Graeme Swann for the first wicket to fall. First Watson survived a leg-before shout, and then Katich (46) missed a pull shot to a rank long hop and was trapped himself LBW off the last ball of Swann’s first over. However, Swann was only given one more over with Flintoff and Anderson brought back on – but their second spells were no more accurate than their first, and the pressure was off again by the time the end of play came.