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Watson: The Lone Star

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It feels long since we saw Flintoff perform his all-rounder heroics. And desire to go back to Botham, Hadlee and Imran Khan from the past. These guys were the giants around which even an average team could build a winning-combination. Apart from Kallis (but for how long?), no current all-rounders of the world really reach their class, if not performances. Wait, are we ignoring Watson here?

Meet Shane Watson. Born in Queensland, Australia, Watto was introduced to international cricket on the 24th of March, 2002. In almost 9 years of representing Australia and 10+ years in first class cricket, Watson has managed (in aggregate) to notch 23 hundreds, 74 fifties and 353 wickets @ an average of 28. All of us are aware of him and his ability when he is the center stage, it’s time we realize it outside of the stadium as well.

Although he has been a regular in test cricket post Ashes 2009, his ability to decide the flow of the entire match in limited overs edition is hard to beat. A small study giving detailed briefs of his career (at times compared with the cricketing greats) should give us a clear picture:

In 100+ innings, Watson has managed to clock an average of 42 (@ SR 85) and a bowling average of 28 (@ Econ 4.9). This is when he serves as Australia’s dashing opener, one that they needed desperately after Hayden’s and Gilchrist’s retirements and an accurate middle overs bowler.

If stats are broken down to more details, Watson’s winning average has been 47 (@ SR 90) and has had 73% converts when he has scored 50+ for Australia. His bowling average in these matches has been 24 (@ Econ 4.6) with 82% of the wickets he has taken amounting to team’s victory.

If you have a player who can give 73% converts from batting and 82% converts from his bowling accuracy, you shouldn’t complain about retirements of oldies. Maybe Australia is failing to extract that kind of confidence from having such a giant in their team.

Let's have a look at his match-winning centuries:

Chasing 223 against Windies on their home turf, Australia were 1-1 in the very first over. What followed however must have had no hopes for West Indian fans. Watson went on to build a 190-run partnership with Ponting and also carried his bat almost through to the end to put up 126 (off 122 deliveries). This was after he had picked up a wicket (@ Econ 4.6). Aussies got the match and therefore the series in their kitty with this match-winning performance.

His second winner performance came, perhaps, during a more crucial junction. In one of the semi-finals, Aussies were facing England for a berth to finals. After a heroic innings of 80 from Bresnan, English total read 257. The quick fall of Aussie first wicket gave the English some command over their confidence. But not for long. In another unbeaten partnership of 252 with Ponting, Watson managed an overpowering 136* (off 132 deliveries). Not to forget his 2 wickets in quick succession that saw England reduce to 101-6 before they managed to recover.

His third match winning century came in Champion’s Trophy Finals where Aussies were facing Kiwis on Oct 5th, 2009. After tight bowling performance from the Aussie bowling unit, a target of 201 was put up. And at 6 in the third over in the chase, Australia had already lost 2 wickets with Ponting back in the pavilion. But alongside White, Watson managed to build a 128-run partnership and continued thereafter to see Aussies through. 105 not out read the scorecard for the opener at the end of the match.

The guy had now delivered huge performances under knock-out situations and won the Champion’s Trophy almost single-handedly for his captain.

And now scoring 161 not out in 150 deliveries, after having been crushed in The Ashes and struggles in the T20s that followed, wasn’t any easier. England could not be higher in self-belief that they carried into the match. And after having put up a commendable 295 to chase, they surely were on a high. But Watson led the show right from the start. The second highest score in the innings was 39 from Haddin. During his inning, Waston was involved in 2 partnerships of 100+ and another 50+ runs with White to finish the chase in style.

All these performances (4 winning ones out of his 5 overall 100s) have come alongside his availability as an accurate, economical and, at times, destructive bowling option for his captain. After all, grabbing 121 wickets in 101 innings that he has bowled at an average of 28 and economy rate of 4.9 is no lesser a feat either.

Australia may be a dark horse for many in the World Cup 2011 but by no means are they weak. No team is when it has an all-rounder like Watson to boost up their side.
 


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