A Shane Watson special helped Australia through to their best day of Test cricket in this Ashes series against England at The Oval. We’ll have live scores and commentary of the fifth Test from The Oval starting at 8.00pm AEST.
Following a rather poor series leading up to this final Test, Watson was almost playing for a spot in the side.
The LBW travails spoke about a technical deficiency that was taking its time getting over and fair to say the issue was mentally weighing the all-rounder down too.
Watson’s start wasn’t too dissimilar on the first day as he survived a couple of close lbw shouts earlier on.
However the flatness of the track and the surprising English selection allowed him to get his batting back on track as he nearly raced off to a century in the first session.
There was a dropped catch after he seemed to have lost a bit of concentration following his first Ashes Test century and also the first in this format since October 2010.
He soldiered on, however, to bring up 176 of the best runs you would see under the kind of pressure he has been all through this year.
Australia had earlier been rocked early by Dave Warner’s swish outside the off stump and an in-his-shell kind of an innings from Chris Rogers was ended by his nemesis Graeme Swann early in the second session.
Michael Clarke had a torrid time at the wicket. He kept ducking into bouncers and after getting worked over by Stuart Broad, inside-edged one from James Anderson on to his stumps.
Then Steven Smith batted with a lot of calm and doubled the Australian score in his partnership with Watson.
The all-rounder, who has batted in every position from 1 to 6 in recent times, got out late in the day but by then Australia had gotten themselves into a position of great strength.
There were a few signs of the track playing slightly slower than most English pitches to go with the fact that some of the deliveries also kept low.
The second day’s play will be a vital one from Australia’s perspective as they look to get to at least 500 in their first innings. Ideally they would look to bat around 70 overs on the second day and bat England out of the encounter.
Mind you, the batting line-up has been shortened – at least on paper – to include a bowling all-rounder in place of a batsman but given how their lower-order has done with the bat, it may not be such a bad thing.
England will know this pitch well. They will understand the ramifications of batting last on this wicket, especially after Australia go on to score more than 500 in their first essay.
What they need to do is repeat the dose from the third day at Chester-le-Street when they scythed through the last five wickets for the addition of only 48 runs. And while this is an easier pitch to bat on for now, England will aim to puncture a couple of early holes in the order to gain the upper hand.
Follow the live score and blog of the second day’s play of the final Ashes 2013 Test from 8.00pm AEST. You can join me for this live blog and post your comments below.