Watson’s century gives Australia the upper hand
All-rounder particularly hard on England’s newcomers
He did not dominate without support. There was a second-wicket stand of 107 with Chris Rogers, to which the opener contributed 20 (and 21 in all before he fell yet again to Swann). After Michael Clarke had been hanged, drawn and quartered by Stuart Broad’s bombardment and Jimmy Anderson before succumbing to the latter (Anderson thus moving ahead of Bob Willis as England’s second highest wicket taker), Watson put on 145 for the fourth wicket with Steve Smith.
This stand was ended three overs from the close by a combination of Broad, in his third over with the second new ball, and Kevin Pietersen. Broad’s bouncer was well hooked by Watson, middled indeed, and hit flat towards deep square-leg, where Pietersen, diving to his left, held a wonderful catch. Credit to bowler and captain for moving the fielder squarer beforehand: it would have been out of reach otherwise.
Poor Kerrigan. A bowler is exposed in Test cricket rather more than the second division of the County Championship and he suffered agonies. If consolation there be, it can come in knowing that these were shared by many watching: it really was painful to see Watson clamber into him as voraciously as might someone given a banquet after fasting for Lent.
He could have had a more gentle introduction and, given that Watson had got stuck into an amuse bouche against the same bowler in Northampton last weekend, Cook might have wondered about the wisdom of throwing him in at the time he did. But this is Test cricket. There are what they call hard yards to be done and bowlers are not hidden, especially on the first day of a match. Batsmen look for weakness in temperament as well as technique. The best ones test a new bowler early on to see how he reacts: will he come back well or will he wilt? That remains to be seen.
Neither of his first two spells was pretty, his first two overs conceding 28 runs, and a second spell, as Cook tried to sneak a couple of low-key overs in from him before tea, equally nerve-racking although less costly in part due to a field scattered far and wide, with five men on the boundary. It was a field set for bad bowling, which is hardly encouraging.
But plainly, for a while, Kerrigan was simply pleased to have landed the ball at all and not been punished for it. In his third and what proved final spell he was able to claw back some figures, largely through not having to bowl to Watson.