Ashes 2015: Perennial sad clown Shane Watson is the one constant in this brave new world of cricket

Wherever tragicomedy is on the cricket field, Watson is often not far away, from the forlorn 'aww no' when edging the ball behind, to today’s desperate chase to haul the ball in just before the boundary rope only to see England’s batsmen run four anyway

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It was not meant to go like this, a callow England were supposedly no match for the demon attack of Australia – the twin Mitchells too menacing, Hazlewood too metronomic.

Yet here we are with two days to go, Australia requiring an Ashes record chase of 412 to win against an England side rampant with bat and ball. Throw in several days of glorious sunshine in Cardiff and it is difficult to know what makes sense anymore.

Fortunately for fans of natural world order there remains one constant, an anchor keeping this match based in a reality familiar to all, making sure the likes of Joe Root and Ben Stokes don’t skew the cricketing doors of perception totally off their hinges.

That humble hero is of course Shane Watson, Australia’s perennial sad clown, once tipped to be the dashing all rounder that would spur his country to more never-ending decades of success, now just a figure of fun from Cronulla to Chester-Le-Street.

There is a melancholic majesty to Watson’s play, he often manages to look as if there is not one aspect of cricket that he enjoys. Sullenly clanking in to bowl like a suit of armour breathed into life by a particularly sadistic cricket-loving sorcerer, the whole process appears a waste of his time and energy, a burden on his creaky hamstrings.

Fielding is an activity that seems to rank even lower on Watson’s list of hobbies, all that unseemly running and diving around just a chance to pick up another injury, the likes of which have plagued his career.

Watson walks dejectedly off the pitch after being dismissed in the opening Test of the 2015 Ashes series

Wherever tragicomedy is on the cricket field, Watson is often not far away, from the forlorn “aww no” audible on the stump mic when edging the ball behind, to today’s addition to the roll of honour, a desperate chase to heroically haul the ball in just before the boundary rope only to see England’s batsmen run four anyway. 

Even batting, a skill Watson has shown himself to be more than adequate at in ODI colours, appears a totally different burden in Tests. Tried in seemingly every position in the lineup, Watson has never completely impressed, an average of 35.40 and a return of just four centuries in 108 innings below what is expected of a man who has often batted in the top three.

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It is with bat in hand that Watson has provided some of his most memorable moments, with YouTube compilations made in his honour, although unlikely to have had many views from the man himself. Watson appears to bat with a front pad that is larger than most, a looming target flashing enticingly at opposition bowlers, a mischievous cream siren determined to steer every innings off course and dash it against the rocks. 

He has been out LBW 28 times in Test cricket, accounting for 26 per cent of all his dismissals, a predilection for misusing DRS in attempting to save himself only adding to the pathos.

There is a suggestion that with Mitchell Marsh breathing down his neck Watson may not last the series for Australia, a casualty of this brave new world of cricket, a slightly rusty automaton who has no place among these shiny new cricketing cyborgs. 

Yet that would be cricket’s loss, the series infinitely poorer without Watson’s presence, a field shorn of its ever-dependable scarecrow.