By BV Swagath
Shane Watson slammed a career best of 170 to help Australia take the honours on Day 1 of the Final Ashes Test at The Oval. The visitors batting first after winning the toss are sitting pretty at 307 for 4. While Watson fired on all cylinders, young Steven Smith, who is batting on 66, will hold the fortunes of Australia tomorrow.
England was deeply let down by debutant spinner Simon Kerrigan who struggled to even land the ball properly in the right lengths. Kerrigan’s bowling was not even first-class cricket standards as he often bowled long hops and full tosses. The 24-year-old conceded 53 runs in 8 overs in his first ever outing for England.
There was just the one success for the homeside in the final session which was dominated by the 4th wicket pair of Shane Watson and Steven Smith. Watson was dismissed late in the day when his flat pull off Stuart Broad was caught brilliantly by a diving Pietersen at deep backward squareleg to end a 155-run partnership. Watson scored 176 in 247 balls with 25 fours and a six. His last test century was 25 matches back and overall only the third of his career. Watson had a couple of lives but there were only after he reached his century. The first one was when he was dropped on 104 by Cook at slip off Anderson. The second life came after Watson successfully reviewed an lbw decision when he missed a pull off a low ball from Woakes.
Update at Tea on Day 1: England got back in the contest somewhat taking the wickets of Chris Rogers and Michael Clarke but one has to say that the Aussies are still in a good position at 183 for 3 in 58 overs. Watson is keeping the visitors in fine shape with a superb knock of 121*.
Graeme Swann produced the first breakthrough of the post lunch session by squaring up Chris Rogers and forcing him to edge a turning off break to slip. Rogers could score only 23 from 100 balls before falling early after the lunch break. Next man in Michael Clarke had a scratchy time in the middle and along with Watson strangely struggled against the short stuff from Stuart Broad. Watson even took a nasty blow near his ear but luckily recovered from it without much damage. Australia lost the big wicket of Michael Clarke (7 from 39) when he was bowled by an indipper from Anderson which came back a long way from outside off to hit the off stump. The pair of Watson and Steven Smith ensured that Australia didn’t lose any more wickets before Tea.
Update at Lunch on Day 1: Shane Watson finally found some form with the bat to put Australia in command at 112 for 1 in 29 overs in the morning session on Day 1. Watson stroked his way confidently to 80* in just 77 balls with 15 fours and a six. Chris Rogers worked hard for an 87-ball 21*.
The only casualty for the Aussies in the first session was David Warner (6), who was caught behind, edging a tentative drive off an outswinger from Anderson. England got the first breakthrough in the 5th over itself but couldn’t make any further inroads in the rest of the session. The hosts missed a quality third seamer to support Anderson and Broad. Debutant Chris Woakes didn’t make much impression on the Aussie batsmen.
Another debutant – left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan looked very ordinary at this level of the game. The left-armer was taken for 28 runs in his two overs with Watson attacking him. England’s hopes of putting pressure on the Aussies would rely on Graeme Swann with the pitch already starting to take turn on Day 1.
Toss and Teams: Australia has won the toss and elected to bat first in the 5th and final Ashes Test at The Oval in London. England has given Test debuts to Chris Woakes and left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan. The pair comes in the place of Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan. Australia has given Test debut to left-arm pacer James Faulkner. Mitchell Starc is back in the XI. Dropped for this Test are Usman Khawaja and Jackson Bird.
England: Alastair Cook (C), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (WK), Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Simon Kerrigan, James Anderson
Australia: Chris Rogers, David Warner, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (C), Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (WK), James Faulkner, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon