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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas