Watson underlined value of quality No 3 for Test success
Every good team has a strong No 3 batsman. India had Rahul Dravid with his technical efficiency and is now blessed with Cheteshwar Pujara. Ian Chappell writes. Most runs at number 3 for Aus in Testsindia Updated: Aug 28, 2013 13:23 IST
Every good team has a strong No 3 batsman and that's been evident in the most successful Test sides of recent times. India had Rahul Dravid with his technical efficiency and is now blessed with Cheteshwar Pujara, who has a taste for big scores.
South Africa has Hashim Amla, a run-making machine, and Jonathan Trott performed a similar role for England until recently. It's no coincidence that Trott's slump has resulted in lower England totals. Sri Lanka has the silky smooth Kumar Sangakkara and Australia had Ricky Ponting.
However, since Ponting retired, No 3 has been a black hole during a period of limited Australian success. That's why the importance of Shane Watson's belligerent century at the Oval can't be overstated.
Ponting was the latest in a long line of Australian No 3 batsmen who excelled in successful teams, a list that includes such illustrious counter-attackers as Don Bradman, Neil Harvey, Clem Hill and Charlie Macartney.
Hill was once widely regarded as the best left-hander in the game and Macartney uttered the words; "Some cove's going to cop it today," before strapping on his pads to face Nottinghamshire in 1921. He lived up to his boast by rattling off 345 in 232 minutes, still the fastest first-class triple century.
Watson was at three for the first time in the series and he batted in a similarly ambitious mode. His defence was more solid, he produced flowing drives from the full deliveries and the shorter ones were dispatched with authoritative pull shots.
However, it was his match awareness that caught the eye. He took charge of the game with the advent of England's two debutant bowlers. Admittedly Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan delivered some dross but this could well have been exacerbated by Watson's eagerness to stamp his authority.
This is what a successful Test team needs from its No 3 -- a player who can come in at the fall of an early wicket but is not frightened to launch a counter attack; a ploy that can unnerve an opposition expecting a more measured response.
A successful No 3 must also be a decent player of spin bowling because he's expected to regularly convert starts into big scores. Watson achieved that goal and for only the second time since Ponting's departure, the Australian No 3 scored a Test century.
There's a lot of codswallop spoken and written about the spot. For instance, it's not the most difficult batting position; it is in fact the best spot to bat. A good No 3 has the opportunity to set the pattern of play. It's far easier coming in at one for very few than three for not many.
Then there's the notion that the "poor old number three" might have to face the second ball of an innings. If you're not mentally ready to enter the fray at 0/1 then you're not in the right frame of mind to bat at first drop. A number three doesn't yearn for an opener to be dismissed early but it is better to bat when you're fresh rather than after you've been sitting around for a few hours.