Shane Watson’s finally run out of rope
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Australian all-rounder Shane Watson has been given plenty of chances, and faces the chop. There’s no doubting his talent, but it’s not showing on the scoreboard.
This calendar year Watson, predominately a batsman who sometime bowls, has scored 28, 17, 23, 9, 17, 5, 13, 46, 30, 20, 19, and 18 to average a tick over 20 in a dozen digs.
He hasn’t scored a half-century since December last year, with 83 against Sri Lanka at the MCG, nor a Test ton since Mohali against India in October 2010.
In fact, he has only reached three figures twice in 81 visits to the crease, although there are four 90s and three 80s in that time.
But lack of consistent runs isn’t Watson’s only problem; it’s where to bat him.
He prefers to open, where he averages 41.79, well above his career average of 34.50. But when he bats down the order, he’s only averaging in the mid 20s.
But in this Ashes series there are five Australia opening batsmen: Watson, Chris Rogers, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, and Phil Hughes.
So selectors face the almost impossible task of finding the right combination to get the baggy greens off to a decent start.
When Watson should be a bonus, he’s actually become a liability.
He batted four in the second dig at Old Trafford, when the Australians were robbed of a deserved victory by rain.
Skipper Michael Clarke’s 187, Steve Smith’s 89, Rogers’ 64, Mitchell Starc’s 66*, and Brad Haddin’s 65 proved on the opening days there were runs there for the taking, while Watson made 19.
But the 32-year-old isn’t the selectors’ only problem with the Ashes gone, two Tests to go in England, and five in Australia.
They can start with what to do with offie Nathan Lyon after his 1-103 off 38 overs at Old Trafford, and the 19-year-old left-armer Ashton Agar’s 2-248 off 84 overs in the first two Tests.
Neither figures are too flash.
But Agar’s the best bet. He will be a vital part of the future, and he can bat, as he proved on debut with an all-time Test best 98 for an 11 batsman.
He’s averaging 34 in the Sheffield Shield in his 13 appearances for Western Australia in the lower order.
Deadly accurate paceman Jackson Bird cannot be ignored any longer.
In his only two Tests before he was injured, Bird claimed 11 wickets at 16.18, and in 22 Shield games for Tasmania, 107 at 19.99.
Roughly five first-class wickets a match for virtually nothing. How can he possibly be just a nets bowler and a drinks-waiter?
If Watson keeps being selected with his figures, how can Bird be denied his?
The fourth Ashes Test begins on Friday at Chester-le-Street.
It’s a dead rubber, but the selectors can make it work to the team’s advantage with a mixture of form players, and looking to the future.
Try Rogers, Warner, Khawaja, Clarke, Hughes, Smith, Haddin, Agar, Siddle, Harris, and Bird.
Rod Marsh and Darren Lehmann, make your move.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.