Watson moves up, Compton moves out

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    Shane Watson was once hugely important for Australia. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

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    Darren Lehmann’s promotion of Shane Watson to the top of the order may be viewed as the new coach putting his own stamp on things but it’s really a case of common sense coming to the fore.

    Plenty of column inches have been used up debating the best place for, even the actual point of in some instances, Watson and it seems Lehmann is in little doubt.

    David Warner’s lunacy may have forced the Australian camp’s hand, however, whether or not that incident ever took place, Watson opening is a shrewd move.

    It’s been well documented his record is far superior against the new ball than in the middle order, it’s a position where he wants to play and the side doesn’t have the tools to fudge any issue.

    If Watson is there then those in charge have to try and get the best out of him.

    He has plenty of ability, that hasn’t ever really been questioned, and while his temperament is flaky at the best of times, nothing stabilises fluctuations in attitude like a decent run of scores.

    A fit and firing Watson, in a batting order that could do with any boost it can find, has to be a significant plus and Lehmann is well aware of that.

    In the English camp, Nick Compton’s non-selection in the 14-man squad for England’s warm-up game with Essex this weekend, unless injuries occur, as good as rules him out of the upcoming Ashes and could well signal the conclusion of his brief international career.

    Some may view it as being unduly harsh, and the man himself will almost certainly see it that way, but sport can be a cruel occupation at the best of times and seven into six won’t ever go.

    With Kevin Pietersen announcing his return in some style with a big hundred for Surrey – was he ever really going to miss such a high profile series? – it came down to a straight choice between Compton and Jonny Bairstow and the right decision has been arrived at.

    Compton, in his last six Test innings, has made a fraction over 50 runs in six hours at the crease, which represents a player trying desperately hard to succeed while giving himself all the tools needed to consistently fail.

    The Somerset man has never been the most fluent of players but those statistics show someone who has become paralysed by an overwhelming desire to do well.

    When that manifests itself in the kind of tortuous effort Compton produced in the second innings against New Zealand at Headingley there is an issue.

    Crank up the pressure of the occasion by a few notches, as will be the case at Trent Bridge in a fortnight’s time, and the outlook isn’t particularly promising.

    To keep Compton in and prevent Joe Root from taking the position he has been earmarked for would be akin to the selectors shirking their responsibility and this isn’t the time for pussy-footing around.

    Some sympathy should be felt for Compton because he did a decent job while in occupation having worked extremely hard to get there in the first place but the correct decision has been arrived at.


    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.

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    The Crowd Says (63)

    • June 28th 2013 @ 2:23am
      Roy said | June 28th 2013 @ 2:23am | ! Report

      Yeah, Australia hasn’t got the batting depth not to try and get the best out of Watson, and he’s better at the top of the order. In form he’s one of our most potent weapons. Admittedly he hasn’t been in form for a while, but that’s the nature of cricket. Hopefully he’s able to role the arm over as well.

      Rogers must be a lock for the first test given his county form. Is he an out-and-out opener or could he bat first drop?

      Nervous times for Cowan.

    • Roar Pro

      June 28th 2013 @ 2:57am
      A View From the Top said | June 28th 2013 @ 2:57am | ! Report

      Michael Maguire arrived at South Sydney 18 months ago and declared performance not talent or ability to be his currency of choice. Fetuli Talanoa out and Andrew Everingham is one example of the change in perspective. It’s a different sport I know but make your own judgement on what we can and can’t do without I guess.

    • Roar Guru

      June 28th 2013 @ 6:33am
      The Bush said | June 28th 2013 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      Well he’s scored a few runs at least – out in the 90s again but!

      Khawaja didn’t strike one for his cause unfortunately, but I see Mr Hughes has been shunted down the order but is doing okay.

      • June 28th 2013 @ 9:26am
        John Edgar said | June 28th 2013 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Cowan was the lowest scorer, Khawaja got a run a ball 27 abnd will hopefully get a big one in the second innings,

        • Roar Guru

          June 28th 2013 @ 9:47am
          The Bush said | June 28th 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          Yeah Cowan is certainly in trouble, but then no one really expects him to be a long term prospect there. I’d rather we milked a few season out of Rogers and see who else appears as a quality opener.

          In contrast we all hope that Khawaja is the answer to our middle order malaise (whether that be him playing at 3, 4 or 5).

          • June 28th 2013 @ 11:20am
            Amith said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            Yes Bush i think he will be the answer, i would certainly have Watson and Rogers opening, that much is clear, leave khawaja at 3, Clarke at 4 and Hughes can come in at 5, i hope we get that for the first test.

            • June 28th 2013 @ 11:54pm
              Clavers said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:54pm | ! Report

              Nah, I say the seasoned Rogers at 3.

              The position is critical and all the other candidates are rookies.

      • June 28th 2013 @ 11:06am
        THEO BAGOU said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        I think this time around KHAWAJA will bat a lot better, get rid of Hughes not getting any better? Iam sorry he is only a shield cricketer.

      • June 28th 2013 @ 11:51pm
        Clavers said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:51pm | ! Report


        I’d be very curious to see Watson’s life insurance policy. If the insurers know anything at all about the man, they’ll know he’s going to die in his nineties for sure.

    • June 28th 2013 @ 6:48am
      Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      Boofs first great move as Aussie coach although I think most good cricket judges thought it was pretty obvious. When you hear people like mark Taylor Ian Chappell micheal slater calling for Watson to be put back to the top of the order you wonder what Arthur was waiting for

      • June 28th 2013 @ 2:37pm
        jameswm said | June 28th 2013 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

        I think batting Clarke was equally important.

        If he partners Watson with Rogers, then all of a sudden it;s a solid top 4. Hughes might do better further down, and with Warner not playing and Smith the 8th batsman picked, we could have this – and it could be worse;

        1. Rogers
        2. Watson
        3. Cowan
        4. Clarke
        5. Hughes
        6. Khawaja

        If Hughes and Khawaja can’t score runs at 5 or 6, then someone else gets a gig – Smith or Warner

    • June 28th 2013 @ 6:59am
      Nev said | June 28th 2013 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      Watson needs to feel the love – Boof gave Watto a cuddle and he responds with runs. Still getting out in the 90s, but that isn’t the worst problem with the aussie batting lineup right now.

      • Roar Guru

        June 28th 2013 @ 8:30am
        JDP said | June 28th 2013 @ 8:30am | ! Report

        Bang on.

        • June 28th 2013 @ 12:40pm
          John Edgar said | June 28th 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report


      • June 28th 2013 @ 10:44am
        Disco said | June 28th 2013 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        And against, um, Somerset. I’m not convinced he’ll have a good Test series.

        • June 28th 2013 @ 1:42pm
          Australian Rules said | June 28th 2013 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

          Runs against anyone is good for Australia right now.

      • June 28th 2013 @ 1:46pm
        Gr8rWeStr said | June 28th 2013 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        He scored 165 in the lead up to the Champions Trophy and how did he perform in that?

    • Roar Guru

      June 28th 2013 @ 7:28am
      Tim Holt said | June 28th 2013 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      In truth, it is a very near sighted move for his bowling is as valuable to the Team as his batting. And by him opening, it allows excuses for his to not bowl. He is in no way suited to open in Test Cricket in conditions that might suit bowlerds for success depends on temperament and strict adherence to batting basics such as being a refined accumulator of runs so as to turn over the strike. Watson is a terrible runner, clueless in accumulation and very shoddy from a temperament point of view.

      Meaning the English will just dry him up and let the sweet beads of frustration gather on his brow until he tries a ‘sexy’ shot and gets out

      If he batted between 5-7, he could have bowled more and being very dangerous against the old ball with his pure hitting

      • June 28th 2013 @ 9:19am
        Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        How is he not suited to opening against good bowling conditions when he was nearly our best bat in England last time Tim. And opening should only have a very very small affect on his bowling compared to batting at 6. Just don’t bowl him when the opposition are 6 down the bowlers should be able to do the rest there. And if you bat first unless he is still there at 6 down then his bowling can’t be affected. He was a great player 2 years ago when opening and his bowling was outstanding. Boof is just showing complete common sense. If Watson can produce the form he was in 2 years ago and I understand that is a big if we are a real chance to win this thing

        • Roar Guru

          June 28th 2013 @ 9:30am
          Tim Holt said | June 28th 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          i think you over rate his batting Nudge by defining it as ‘great’- he averages 35 with two centuries in 75 innings in what is widely regarded as the batsmans age. His 9 innings in English conditions saw him average 33.77 with 3 50s- so you could define it in many ways, but I do not think ‘great’ is one of them

          As for his bowling in 2011, I would have gone so far to rate him only behind Harris as Australia’s best, and arguably in the best 5 in the game….which underlines a combination of his luck ( injuries ) and his retarded mindset ( choosing not to bowl.) For he has never won any games for Australia with the bat, but I can think of a fair few where he has been decisive with the ball

          Back to him opening……

          – Openers need to make oppositions pay with the big scores- Watsons strike rate is appalling in this regard

          – they need to be good accumulators, which encompasses being a good runner between wickets. On this point Watson is an accident waiting to happen

          – they need gears in their batting with a focus on refined defensive attributes- Watson is very one paced in that he can attack, but cannot play the role so needed of as an opener when you need to just blunt and survive

          – His temperament is not an openers for he has little patience and dreadful choices in shots

          • June 28th 2013 @ 10:45am
            Disco said | June 28th 2013 @ 10:45am | ! Report

            Well said.

          • June 28th 2013 @ 12:50pm
            Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

            I said he was great 2 years ago Tim when he was opening. I never said he is a great batsman overall. When he was opening and bowling you can’t doubt he was a great player for Australia. Thankfully a great cricket mind has come in and common sense has provailed. I think also his past 3 first class innings he has past 50 each time. I’m tipping that’s better than cowan

            • June 28th 2013 @ 12:52pm
              Disco said | June 28th 2013 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

              But his form started to fall away prior to being shifted from the opening slot.

              Meanwhile, Watson also did well in the warm-ups in India.

              • June 28th 2013 @ 1:33pm
                Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

                Yes he did have 2 poor series before he was injured and then removed from opening. But what’s to say that was just form. Hussey was nearly dropped for the last ashes for a poor 5 or 6 series in a row so it can happen to any one.

              • June 28th 2013 @ 2:31pm
                Gr8rWeStr said | June 28th 2013 @ 2:31pm | ! Report


                Has scored 90 in this innings + 84 & 60 in the two innings of the warm up match in India, are his last 3 first class innings. His form in the Indian Test between those warm up matches, 6 innings for 99 runs at 16.50, suggest its a poor pointer to his Test form. In the Indian Tests Cowan’s stats were 8 innings for 265 runs at 33.15, in his 8 first class innings since India he has 4 50’s.

              • June 28th 2013 @ 2:56pm
                Matt F said | June 28th 2013 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

                Nudge – What’s to say that his good performances while opening wasn’t just form?

            • June 28th 2013 @ 3:30pm
              Tim said | June 28th 2013 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

              even two years ago i would not define him as great nudge, i would say he was valuable especially for his bowling, but his batting would not have got him in any reputable batting line up for he was not up to being a test standard top 6 batsman

              • June 28th 2013 @ 5:04pm
                Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

                He was in the top 10 players in the world 2 years ago. Short memories. If we are to have any chance to win Watson will be the key. Might as well play him where is average says he should and that’s what the Aussie coach is doing

              • June 28th 2013 @ 5:08pm
                Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 5:08pm | ! Report

                You trying to prove my point gws. Don’t reckon he opened in India in the tests. Good to see your back on board mate

              • June 28th 2013 @ 5:44pm
                Gr8rWeStr said | June 28th 2013 @ 5:44pm | ! Report


                The point you continue to deny is that Watson’s lead up game form means nothing at the top level. A more recent example of this was in the lead up to the Champions Trophy he scored 135 off 98 against West Indies. Watson opened throughout the Champions Trophy, in a form that most agree he is more suited to, and had scores of 24, 5 &5. Hardly ‘great’ form.

            • Roar Guru

              June 28th 2013 @ 5:08pm
              Tim Holt said | June 28th 2013 @ 5:08pm | ! Report

              I think by stating that fact you must be referring to his mastery in ODI/T20 Cricket with bat…….for I rarely pay any attention to ratings, but there is NO WAY watson would have been rated in the top 10 in Tests- solely as a batsman

              • June 28th 2013 @ 6:02pm
                Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

                Ok gws who would you prefer. Watsons average of 25 and bowling accurate swingers at 135 (england dont have a 5th bowler)and reliable first slip fielding or cowans average of 32 and hands that would struggle to catch a volleyball. If you choose Cowan clearly you knocked off work today at lunch

              • June 28th 2013 @ 6:25pm
                Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

                No Tim not just as a batsman

              • June 28th 2013 @ 8:14pm
                Gr8rWeStr said | June 28th 2013 @ 8:14pm | ! Report


                Are you conceding Watson’s recent batting form, alone, doesn’t earn him selection?

                I very much adhere to the principal that you select batsmen for their recent batting form, not their bowling and fielding ability. Cowan is more likely to stay out there longer to shield the middle from the new ball and build partnerships with Clarke, and others, helping to build a larger team total.

                Watson, has now run out of excuses for his poor batting form:
                1. He’s back opening – ‘his favourite position’
                2. He has got a coach who’s ‘backing’ him
                3. He’s relinquished the burden of the vice captaincy
                4. He’ll have a steadying influence down the other end, Rogers or Cowan, his Katich replacement
                5. He averages 48.21 against England in Tests, his best against all Test opposition
                6. He averages 48 against England in England

                How much longer does he get if he continues to averages 25? Sub 30? Sub 35?

            • Roar Guru

              June 28th 2013 @ 6:38pm
              Tim Holt said | June 28th 2013 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

              why you arguing with me then Nudge, unless you have not read my replies. For already said he is exceptional as a bowler.

              But the bottom line with watson is, if he does not bowl, he is not worthy to be in the Test Team.

              • June 28th 2013 @ 6:42pm
                Nudge said | June 28th 2013 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

                I’m happy with that but bat him where he has had success

          • June 29th 2013 @ 12:01am
            Clavers said | June 29th 2013 @ 12:01am | ! Report

            Tim, are you aware that Watson scored a double century in a Shield final?

            He doesn’t need to accumulate. What matters is how many runs you get, not how fast or slow you get them.

            I’m gonna back the man. What odds would you give me for Watson averaging over 45 this Ashes series?

      • June 28th 2013 @ 11:34pm
        Pete B said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:34pm | ! Report

        Watson himself thinks he’s best at opening and bowling only a bit. I know he is a bit precious, but he probably has a better idea of how he should be played than anyone else. The further he moves down the order his average (at that position) correspondingly drops.

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