On the Front Foot: Is left-field selection of Watson as an opener the right choice?

Should Shane Watson, as is being suggested in some panic-stricken quarters, open Australia's batting at Birmingham on Thursday, he will change a whole way of life.

The team have played 92 Tests since a right-hander opened. The last was Michael Slater at Leeds in 2001. He was dropped for the final game at The Oval, when Justin Langer began his enduring partnership with Matthew Hayden, and since then it has been left-handers all the way. Of course, Hayden and Langer have done the bulk of the work but the other six men used on a temporary basis have all been left-handers. The records show that there was a first-wicket partnership of 12 between Hayden and the very right-handed Ricky Ponting at the Wanderers in March 2006.

But Ponting had gone in only after Langer had retired hurt. Australia have fielded 15 dual left-handed partnerships since Bill Lawry and Bob Cowper opened against India at Sydney in 1968, although six survived for just one match. Only Mark Taylor and Matthew Elliott, who went in first in 14 Tests, kept selectorial faith for long. England, who have a left-handed pairing of their own in Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, first used an all left-handed partnership in the West Indies in 1955 when Willie Watson and wicketkeeper Reg Spooner opened in the second innings with few runs needed for victory. Their first selected left-handed openers were Jack Ikin and Brian Close the following summer. Strauss and Cook have gone in first in 32 Tests, four more than Strauss and Marcus Trescothick, but still need 21 runs to become the heaviest-scoring left-handed openers for England. If they score another 231 runs in this series together they will overtake Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook as the second most prolific first-wicket run-scorers for England.

Jimmy keeps up with Jones

On the subject of batting feats, Jimmy Anderson has now gone 51 innings from the start of his Test career without registering a duck. This equals the record for an England player, set by Geraint Jones who then bagged a pair in his 52nd and 53rd innings and has not played since. Anderson still has a long way to go to match AB de Villiers' record of 78 innings from the start of his career without a duck, a run that ended against Bangladesh last November.

Hauritz delivers good line

Ashes poet David Fine has been in touch with some spiffing ideas as part of this column's competition, for which the prize is two tickets for a major match. In the spirit of the event he suggests it would be a good wheeze to ask readers to come up with verse (and rhyme) about the Australian bowler Nathan Hauritz. He sent this:

'A low-key Aussie offie is Horitz,

Bowls rhubarb and soft-centred chocolates.

He grew more flighty

Coming to Blighty,

Tossed up toss-pots till short-leg vomits.'

OTTF thought there might be a better rhyme and on the back of a scorecard during the 17th watching of the Lord's highlights came up with this:

'Nathan Hauritz,

Loathed St Moritz.

He went there to bowl off breaks

To be told he was no great shakes.'

Entries to the email address below please.

Limp excuse for Strauss

It may not mean much now but the fining of the England team for slow over-rates at Lord's could be serious. Captain Strauss lost 20 per cent of his match fee. If he does it again he could face a match ban. Will match referee Jeff Crowe make allowances for Andrew Flintoff having to hobble back to his mark?


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