The Aussie Angle on the Ashes 2013: Patched-up Shane Watson's bowling brain is so vital to Australia

Watto bowled 90 deliveries, only four of which were put away for runs

Shane Watson has been insisting for months that he is a bowler. As he has been laid low by a series of soft-tissue niggles, most recently a calf strain that would neither go away nor deteriorate enough to be classified as a serious ailment, Watson’s value with the ball has been underlined most in his absence.

Australia need him to bowl, and he needs to bowl to feel a complete cricketer. And as Australia have come to learn, a content Watto is an effective Watto.

Effective enough to bowl 90 deliveries in the second innings at Trent Bridge, only four of which an England batsman was able to put away for runs.

As the contest started to resemble the draining final overs of a desperate fifth-day thriller, Watson’s value was emphasised by his dogmatic approach to line and length.

His analysis of 15-11-11-0 may not cause pulses to race, nor was he rewarded with a wicket, but he won the prize for economy on a day when his colleagues were taxed for 31 boundaries and saw the Test match first inching then cantering towards England.

Angus Fraser used to rail against those quicks described as attacking bowlers. It simply meant they got hit for boundaries, he suggested.

Bowling was about building pressure by denying runs, he said, the natural consequence of hitting the right line and length ball after ball after sweat-stained ball.

Australia boast a fine crop of pacemen, including Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc in this Test, Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird in the wings and excitement machines like Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile and the South Australian firebrand Kane Richardson waiting their turn.

Yet Watson is capable of doing something that few of the others can manage, even conceive.

A genuine medium-pacer in the sense that he will never terrify a batsman with pace much above 80mph, Watson nonetheless is armed with several vital weapons. He has a bowling brain, that rare and precious amalgam of connective tissue and imagination. He has a relatively simple and repeatable action that allows him to land the ball in the same place over after over.

And he has the patience and discipline required to see a plan to conclusion.

“What I do love about being an all-rounder is feeling like you can have some impact on the game with bat and ball at a time when it feels like the game is starting to slip,” Watson said after the most recent of his interminable campaigns to return to the bowling crease. So it proved at Trent Bridge as England set about building the target that Australia may eventually find a batsman or session too far.

High-performance manager Pat Howard supplied one of the most damning sledges in Australian cricket during the disastrous India tour this year when Watson was one of four players suspended for failing to complete performance reviews as the team slid towards a 4-0 whitewash.

“I know Shane reasonably well,” Howard said of the then Australian Test vice-captain. “I think he acts in the best interests of the team – sometimes.”

There was no issue about Watson acting in the best interest of the team yesterday.

He lumbered in 72 times, each time completing his follow-through with that familiar grimace on his face that so many times has indicated yet another muscle has been stretched beyond its bounds.

Watson denied himself the satisfaction of bowling for extended periods over the last year, rationalising his abstinence as an investment in a future comeback with a stronger and more flexible chassis.

“That was a time that  reaffirmed to me that I really do want to bowl,” he explained.

“It reaffirmed that I’m never going to give up bowling.”

That is good news for Australia, for whom a steady hand at the bowling crease may be as valuable as the flamboyant pace and swing of its battalion of tearaways.

John Townsend is Cricket Writer at the West Australian

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor